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Towards a more environmental urbanism: the “territorial mosaic city” Carles Llop

small territoriality, a close one, in a symbiotic system and bound to man and habitat, as the community and the areal environment where he inhabits. During a conference, I heard how José Luís Sampedro associated ecology and economy, what I understand by a more environmental urbanism is based on his reflections, a balance between the anthropic action in the urbanization and the care and respect towards the

To start talking about planning, I am going to







offer you a funny anecdote. Some years ago, recently

Paraphrasing him, I also subscribe that ecology and

arrived from a trip to Nicaragua, the taxi driver who

economy have much to do and determine the basis for

was carrying us asked about the reason of our visit in

a more environmental urban planning. To begin with,

the country- it is known that taxi drivers have great

they have as the root oikos, home or habitability in the

conversation skills. So I thought about what I had gone

widest sense from the etymological point of view. The

there for, and I answered him to teach a course of

nomos of the economy cares for the efficient guidelines

urbanism. In the answer, I hindered thinking that

in order to make feasible the habitability in the planet

maybe he did not know exactly what this was, situation

which is sheltering us, and worries about the conditions

in which he emphatically answered: Oh, of course, what

that make it easier, that is what the civilization has

we were taught in school when we were kids!,

been searching for since immemorial time. In its place,

confusing urbanism with urbanity or good manners.

the logos of ecology talks about the concern about the

But in fact, the taxi driver was not so confused: the

habitability logics, through the relations between the

exercise of good manners has much to do with the way

organisms and the environment which gives them the

how we treat the environment, the territoriality; that is,

inputs nutrients and, even from an ethic point of view,

it has much to do with the subject of urbanism, and

it proposes how we face this habitability in a more

especially a more environmental urbanism.

balanced, solidary and ecumenical way.

This concept of territoriality is given to us for a

The first shelter that man builds is a

life experience when we live integrated in a certain

good reference that makes us think, as urban planners,

space; and at the same time, it is conditioned for what

in the chance of a minimal interaction with the

we want to do beyond our lives when we think of a

environment and how we should proceed to not modify

desire to colonize, to take up more territory, to explore

substantially our environment. Jean Philipe Vassal said,

and move unlimitedly in wider environments. It is in the

“If nature was perfect the architecture would not have

moment in which we think about occupying or taking

been necessary”. Indeed, engineering and urbanism

more advantage of the environment, when we break up

would not have been necessary; neither to modify it

our serene relation with it. And this has some very

because of our needs. Therefore, from minimalist

significant consequences. Every time we have a relation

positions, it is tried to do almost nothing and to value

less pristine with our environment. And the effects that

what nature gives us and serves us to live. Giving

we cause on our urban or rural environment show it.

examples of the first shelters (a log cabin with four bent

Our cities have detached from the territory, because

trunks and plaited leafs; to modify the land topography

millions of people no longer live or work slowly on a

to build a wall, like in a Viking settlement which is

regarding to the cardinal points to make sure the right

The effects of the diffuse limits in the use of

ventilation and protection in front of possible invaders)

the territory, the big process of the population increase

we discover the history of the construction process of

and the extensive urbanization, characteristic of the

the urban environment very basic actions that

20th century, what has broken this historical territorial

practically do not alter the natural heritage. They are

logics and has opened a new paradigm of a city

actions of deep architectural essence that should give

extended through the territory, and of a territory

an answer to our current questions to find a way of

interspersed with the city; a phenomenon that affects

acting more simple and harmonious with the

the big metropolitan concentrations, but also the

environment. These images place us in front of

countryside. An urbis shape every time bigger and



larger that states a conflict on the management of the

contemporary way and the resulting form of making

balance between the support territory (the biophysical

city and changing the territory. Two questions are

matrix) and the city (in certain situations bundled each

especially sharp: what we do and why we do it.

other in a perfect symbiosis and environmental




The city can be understood as a splendid

cooperation; one depending the other).

solution of the three components that shape the

The city has refused its atavistic relation with its

essence of a civilization: being place (urbs), being

territory generating a multiplicity of heterogeneous

political community (polis) and being meeting place

forms often incomplete and mixed. The real city is an

and cultural exchange (civitas). Traditionally, the city

urban nebulous, that it’s necessary to solve, to

has been surrounded by a wall, but not only in order to

comprehend and to be ready to work on it.

protect itself from outsiders, but to benefit from an environmental balance. For example, the chronicles shows us that in Valencia, the inhabitants pressed together in the dense urbanization surrounded by the wall, efficiently benefited from the orchard around: the city limited itself and did the good governance of the near crop fields and the forest in the distance. It’s the explosion of the city with a vast use of the territory what







exploitation one. This explosion of the city causes big opportunities, but also big problems, and makes evident the relationship between man and territory.

In this context, it has no sense the glorification of the city left in the chaos order of the flexibility of the normative deregulation, neither the praise of the outskirts as new kinds of modern spaces. So, it is necessary to observe carefully the forms of use of the territory to identify problems and to be able to search solutions







management of the territory, identifying effects and proposing





improvement, working the articulation between city and territory.

Today we suffer a “sconfinatta” (without limits) city, on

So, nowadays we have a territory which is

a territory full of scattered settlements which make

conditioned by a territorial splash, an extension and

almost impossible to be certain of the limit between

tentacular spread of urbanization and fragmentation of

what is urban and what is rural, and it doesn’t help to

rural areas that affects territories which should keep as

place ourselves in our perception of the urban form.

environmental spaces to carry out essential biophysical

The city is scattered, diffuse on the territory in a

functions. These harmful phenomena on the territory

multiplicity of urban heterogeneous forms even

usually are not perverse in their origin, but they appear


as secondary results of economic processes, which

haven’t found the right project to set in a territory.

During a trip to Stuttgart we made in the beginning of

These processes have given place to what I call “the

the 80’s, we found a city tied with far away territories,

territorial-mosaic-city”. And I name it like this because

the interland, and that generated contacts between

city and territory are mixed making like a “melting pot”.

what is artificialization and its support matrix. We were

This “territorial-mosaic-city” it’s made by historical

fascinated when we saw the railways with a careful and

pieces of coexistence between rural and urban, pieces

decent aspect (different from our infrastructures in that

of agricultural production and structures of industrial

time, that often were furrowing among the dirt), which

activity, often furrowed by numerous infrastructures

magnified the mobility fact and gave to the collective

and splashed by banal territories, useless or degraded

transport a social dimension of union with the territory.

spaces (“drosscapes” as the English say). The city is also

When we came back to Barcelona, we wrote the book

manifested in forms that we have had to admit as a city

“Projectar la ciutat metropolitana” (“Projecting the

but that in fact, they are marginal places, like the

metropolitan city”) (1986), where we described a city

shanty neighborhoods, a phenomenon that fills so

project that considered the form and the manufacture

many metropolises in the whole world. It has been

but, especially, the environment dynamics and the

done a big mental process to admit that these marginal

management of the landscape quality. It was proposed

agglomerations are city too. But I add: needless to say,

a more environmental urban planning, that intends to

this is not city if it doesn’t meet some basic conditions

settle in people lives and to generate the productivity

of urbs, civitas and polis, accessibility to the basic

optimism, the capacity of respect for the environment,



and the creative responsibility of giving added value to

representation, the presence in the political and local

what we are doing. From these premises, any act, so is

decisions, the access to the transport and public

drilling a tunnel, a highway plan, or building an

services. However, I’m interested in making a virtue of

industrial estate, is organized in base a militant urban

misfortune and believe that we have no option that to

planning, engaged with the management of the

have a big city hope. As Borges said, the city is not the

environmental quality of the territory with a positive

problem; the city is still the solution. In a recent

sense and of added value.






conference in Caracas, Oriol Bohigas titled his speech: “Cities that not are, architects that we don’t want to be, architecture that will never be”. With this pun, I interpret he would say that there are cities with a facade and a back space, cities that ignore an annex territory which almost can’t be considered as city. For example, the big Paris has an envelope that doesn’t appear in the city cartographies, a back-city with a population of 2 million people, eminently immigrants from Africa. Not admitting the marginal neighborhoods of the cities is misunderstanding the potential capacity in the urban transformation. The waste-spaces, the marginal areas, are potential spaces for the urban transformation, since they liberate territory and remove urban pressure on the free space surrounding.

Also beneath these premises we collaborated in carrying out the action project in Seu d’Urgell after the big disaster of the floods in 1982, a fact which carried destruction and chaos, even with a loss of human lives. In order to rebuild this devastation, and having the complicity of the Mayor Joan Ganyet, we projected the riverbed of Segre river. With this action we not only solved the problem, but we had the opportunity to rearrange the territory, creating a big river park. We could redo the landscape to walk up and down the riverbed and, at the same time, we could build big whitewater canoeing channels. So, we could build an artifact that, giving an answer to the land subdivision, channeled the river to get a hopeful

landscape. The Segre park is a piece that tries to make

patience about the right time of building infrastructures

territory, creates landscape, tries to build a system that

o urban spaces. We don’t realize the time needed to

mimics the river, and is a structuring to get closer to the

analyze, to understand the processes and the forms

natural river in the best measure possible.

that better answer to the inhabit needs, and that we

Hopefully this environmental conscience has arrived earlier to the urban planning. Even though I listened from Jaume Terradas that “any city can be

change the territorial balance. The problem of the time to make city in balance with the territory is so important!

sustainable for own definition”, we have the aim to

Returning to the territorial-mosaic-city, and taking as a

work in the most symbiotic way between the urban

historical referent this example of Yemen as a

part and the environment. A problem that we see for

counterpoint of a contemporary urban reality of many

making this possible is that often there is a lack of

cities which is shown in some heterogeneous and

coordination between the professionals that work in

chaotic shapes, large occupations on the territory, the

the environment and the territory and which are

denial of natural territories, higher particle emissions

responsible for the taking of decisions.

and polluting gases, points of heat generation, a

From here I present the city of Shibam in Yemen, the country of Saba queen. The city of Shibam is a very interesting model where the water allows the building of an oasis. The water comes from far away and is channeled painfully until a point of the oasis that allows the creation a plantation. On the ground there are the vegetables, medium height, the fruit trees, and above, the palms with their dates promise, in a splendid production cohabitation. In Shibam, the ground fertility comes from the wastes of the city, so all is recycled in a closed cycle that makes live this territory. Nearby, the city is porous, but it closes and shuts itself away to stand the extreme climate of dryness and heat, taking profit from the oasis created; a virtuous circuit like Pietro Laureano calls it. This set gives us an aesthetic and formal marvel, but above all, an example of the symbiosis between urban artifact and environment.

meager recycling capacity, among other harmful effects, the vindication of a more environmental urban planning is appropriate and needed. From the point of view of urban planning, the dynamics of the territorialmosaic-city can’t be treated as a purely theoretical question, but let's get down to it. For this reason, we have to choose intervention and clear management attitudes. The new spaces and city shapes in the regional planning claim a new scenario based in the environmental agreement between the contemporary city and the standing territory. So the new paradigm for the contemporary city project is set on the social and techno-political agreement that in the last years we have been building with the territorial governance action, and the proposals and citizen manifests. All these agents and platforms, mostly talking about Catalonia case (and unfortunately we are not accompanied by other regions of the peninsula) we have been creating some solid principles, conceptually

And we ask ourselves, is that beauty can’t be

and efficient when planning, projecting and managing

part, within the technique, of the artifacts we make or

this stage of the city that we are living: against the

create to inhabit? This is one of the biggest challenges

sprawl, the concentration; against the low density, the

of our times when the hurry, the speed, the urgency in

work based in reasonably higher densities; against the

execution of a urbanization usually, excessive and

territorial fragmentation, models reasonably more

disproportionate, due to which we are losing our

compact; against the hiperspecialization, the mixing

and mixed uses; against the social segregation, the

metropolitan city, the circular ring is a marathon track

project of the social space as an incentive of the

of 44 km that integrates the main part of the emerging

cohesion and solidarity; against the megalopolisation,

parks and the green filters of the metropolitan city.

the reticular polarization of the capital centers tied in

Nowadays, the outskirt is an area that polarizes the

network with the intermediate cities, making good the

new service sector, with offices in the nodes of road

principle of the network theory, the autonomy of the

communication. The outskirts would be a metaphor of

parts and complementarity between them.

how to work with the territorial project which

I propose to follow three big strategies concerning the specification of territorial projects: 1)

to set a limit to the city; to recognize there are

spaces that cannot be occupied, spaces that have a natural value and an environmental function that is not of built space. Defining and building the limits of the cities, creating frontiers well delimited between urban and rural, and enhancing the proximity values between the people needs and the urban devices which provide the services: work, leisure, health and culture. Urban planners are helping to underscore the society to understand a territory similar to a beehive, with full parts and others empty and soft ones, but articulated and symbiotic to each other.

integrated and articulates other projects, both dense use and activity, as calmed and slow, environmental. Urban planning has to work in the field of anticipation, creating interesting models for the planning and the management of the occupation of the territory. Certainly, and more committed and specific in the option for the environmental quality. Indeed, a more environmental urbanism, committed and specific, goes without rethorics through a renewed territorial project based on urban containment, the articulation of the urban pieces and the suitability of the different kinds of city in a new physical and functional organization system based in: the definition and building of city limits, the creation of frontiers welllimited between the urban and the rural; the

An environmental urbanism has to preserve

promotion of proximity values between the needs

sine die the spaces with extreme environmental quality,

which make easier the services (work, leisure, health,

and favor the uses overlay and the mixed spaces; it has

culture); the reuse (rehabilitation o recycling) of

to articulate the edges. It’s needed to plan and manage

obsolete tissues or underused; indefinite preservation

properly the urban transition areas, to manage the

of areas of extreme environmental quality; the working

wealth in biodiversity of the quality pieces that are part

in favor of uses overlap and mix spaces as to the

of the existing mosaics in the territorial spaces of

program and activities; the articulation of the edges.

regional scale, to recover the quality of the edges in

The project and the management of the urban

metropolitan perimeters and interstices. Working with

ecotones; the richness management in biodiversity of

the edges, the marginal spaces, building on residual

the big quality tiles of the territorial spaces of regional

badly finished spaces is a fact which allows an immense

scale; the quality of recovery in margins and interstices

amount of hectares, now abandoned, for a urban profit

metropolitan perimeters; the project of the big

without wasting territory still open; and

attractors in the big urban voids as new spaces of the



embed infrastructures in a mutual integration.

An example of this last point is constituted by the big urban round, the outskirts of Paris. Apart from run thousands of cars, it’s a potential big green belt of the

city. So, an urban planning which responds to a model of “territorial-mosaic-city”. In other words, a structure both morphological and environmental that favors the mutual environmental adaptation and the coevolution

of the natural urban ecosystems in interaction, based in a mosaic articulated in urban pieces and the biophysical matrix of the territory


balanced. Which are the big strategies that we have in urban planning history from interesting territorial proposals? I propose seven strategies for making an overlapped reading, not-classifying which one is better, but to value that what it's interesting is its overlapping and the simultaneous application of the whole of them for a complete project of the territory: 1)

Finger Plan, Copenhaguen, conceived

in 1947 for the sustainable developing of the metropolitan city growth, tackles at the same time the matter of to balance the city with the rural territory to make them work in a right and articulated way. A dense city, compact, of services, located in the middle of the countryside, is served by five 'fingers' which organize the roads, the paths and the railways, letting the center to be very powerful (with distances of one mile for the pedestrians), and on the other side, these 'fingers' leave territorial green open spaces that penetrate until the middle of the city. 2)

The Transit Oriented Developments

strategy, by Peter Calthorpe. In his acknowledged book 'The next American metropolis, Ecology, Community, and The American Dream' (Princeton Architectural Press, 1933), the person -the pedestrian- is situated as the center of the territorial planning. There shouldn't be any new urban growth that wasn't based in the uses mix (residence-work-trade-services) and with means of transport which make easier a collective and specialized mobility to live in appropriate time and speed. So, the essential trace of the city structure would be based in the spine of a train (in the different modalities of urban adaptation) and the intermodality that organizes all the new urban developments in a radius customized for the pedestrian, which big facilities for that one, and served

by the collective transport or the mobility with more environmental means. Plan of Chicago, 1909, by Burnham


and Bennett'. Oddly, this plan was not approved by the local council, but responds to the impulse of a businessman group who wanted to be competitive with their city and who understood that an excessive growth of the roads network, undifferentiated and unlimited, led nowhere, they understood that it had to be hierarchized, combining the central areas with a micropolicentrism in a appropriate scale of the metropolis. They proposed a new model of metropolis organized in green spaces, creating a 'system park' which articulates both the spaces of proximity and the big territorial parks. A plan that values the biophysical matrix of the territory. The plan even respects the diagonal traces of the Indian paths which supposed the unbreakable traces of the collective memory. This plan let conjugate poetry and pragmatics in a new planning model-system that encourages the proposal in the clear idea of project, put in value and management of the territorial heritage. A plan that still now determines the essential strategies of the new proposals for the Chicago territory (Chicago Metropolis 2020, or the 2040 Regional Plan). 4)

The Green belts that introduced in the

new regional scale of planning the Greater London Plan Council (Greater London Regional Planning Committee in 1935) and specifically, in the Greater London Plan (Patrick Abercrombie, 1944). It comes about spaces of progressive transition of the urban spaces with urban density, towards the suburban and rural situations. They let the configuration of the big city as a neighborhoods federation reasonably articulated by urbanization open spaces with environmental function. The







of the natural spaces and

and their

environments, they help to the increase of the metropolis` environmental vectors quality, they make

sure the proximity of the inhabitants to the rural areas

whole action and the transformation view make

in order to make easier the environmental education,

possible the management of a diverse model of city

the leisure opportunities, and they protect against the

that follows a green strategy.

abusive invasion of the progressive transformation of the suburbia. This contribution to the regional planning has leave us an active inheritance for the project of a renewed metropolis, ordinate by a green strategy based in the definition of some free and open spaces standards which are basic to accomplish, strategic green belts and a interconnected parks system.


The 'Anillo Verde' of Vitoria. In Vitoria

a big urban-territorial green ring has been built. It is the result of a decided restoration and environmental recuperation plan of the city outskirts in order to recover the ecological and social value of the space through

the creation

of a

continuous natural

environment of the city articulated by parks, enclaves

7V's plan. Le Corbusier was very

of high ecological and landscape value; of closeness

impressed the day he visited Colombia, were the big

which helps to the building of the city limits and the

“quebradas� (gorges) of the land had an impact on him.

rural surroundings. The green ring is a live space that

And in a commission made to develop a future project

makes landscape community among the inhabitants,

for the Latin cities (in BogotĂĄ), we realized that wasn't

and makes possible there are family vegetable gardens,

enough with the roads structure, but it was necessary

forests, public buildings, environmental spaces, spaces

to add a seventh road to the structuration system of

where enjoy the nature. So, it is a physical space that

the urban settlements projects. The 7V incorporates

lows the pressure on other natural spaces, but at the

the big green wedges that organize the territory and

same time, is a referent for the environmental

that will have to read and put in value the

education to unite the citizens around a shared

environmental corridors, the runoff spaces, the

objective of respect and management of the territory

recognition of the tectonic faults). He was realized that



it was need to use them as an attribute to organize and configure the epidermis, but above all, the cities structure in their relation with the territory in a resembling way, without discontinuities. 6)

The green 'U' of Stuttgart, a strategy

So, if we overlap these seven strategies, we make an operative ideogram for the construction of a territory model which attributes a value to all its components





urbanized and the open space, in a process of respect

that talks about management. The shape of the


territory has no sense if we don't think it in terms of

territories of the metropolitan outskirts makes possible

time and management with the complicity of people

the outcrop of new ethic attitudes of their inhabitants.

that use this territory. In Stuttgart, 8km of parks which

The urban acupuncture, operating in little actions but in

extend from Palace Garden, going across Rosenstein

the perspective of a big strategy as gives us the

Park, till Killesberg Park, constitute examples of

integration of the mentioned strategies, wants to be

transformation of an obsolete space on the crossing of

the strategy of an optimistic urbanism. If is not possible

big railway infrastructures and urban highways,

to make it all in just one plan, we must select those

intended to make mobility friendly for people. The

points where specific actions let a big change in the

whole German Lands intervene in the transformation

space and produce important and positive social

bringing their intervention in an annual gardening


exhibition that transforms the mentioned space. The






Towards a more environmental urbanism_FINAL