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Speedy spaces Investigation into the interpritation and urban planning along railway lines

DRU Submission yr 4 Donal J Hardy 050007429 1






Part I Linear space as part of a narrative

Thinking Machine: Thinking Machine: Thinking Machine: Thinking Machine: Thinking Machine: Conclusion

Method Study Area Drawings Observation Model

Part II Urbanism for the Railway : Linear cities

Arturo Soria y Mata Le Corbusier ‘obus’, Agliers Robert Venturi- ‘learning from Las Vegas’ Future proposals for a linear city Conclusion


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29 29-31 32 33 35 37





This is an investigation into the interpretation of space from a continually moving point of perspective, in this case, taking the premises of a train. In Part I of this written piece this is investigated though abstract drawings as well models that investigate the potential spatial qualities that these abstract drawings present. Part II is a short text that give an over all picture of how the railway has influenced urbanism and town planning, in particular focusing on the idea of the ‘Linear City’, with references to other studies on Linear Urban Development based around the infrastructure of the automobile.



When we think of how we appreciate space we tend to think of how we perceive it from a static or slow moving point of view. However, in this modern world we regularly experience space from a continually moving perspective like that of travelling on a train or automobile. Ever since the invention of the train we have had the ability to move over large distances at great speed with ease, and this has had a great effect on how cities have expanded and how modern architecture itself has developed. This work is an investigation into the perception of space from a continually moving point of perspective, in this case, a train will the catalyst for the investigation.

Why? The train presents a number of unique qualities that other modes of transport do not have. The train being the first mechanical mode of transport that would allow people to travel at much greater speed than ever before, inspiring artists, poets, architects and town planners. As well as this the train allows for the observation and contemplation that other modes do not allow so easily. In a rail car the traveller may have a table and sits back, and watches the landscape as it moves past the window, a framed view along a pre defined route that restricts the traveller to see only what they are moving past and denying a view ahead to their destination. This differs from an automobile that has almost complete freedom to go where it wishes and gives a traveller an almost 360 degree view of the world, in addition, if the traveller is also the driver, there are obvious distractions that limit the experience of space. All of these factors make an investigation difficult due to the sheer number of possibilities that a car presents, a train will give an investigation into ‘speedy spaces’ some focus. An aircraft, while it has some similar situations as a train. (sitting, looking though a window etc), an airplane moves very, very quickly and a traveller loses any sense of speed or perspective as the plane rises in altitude. 7
















Figure 1.1: Diagram showing Parrallax phenomenon

Linear space as part of a narrative

Within the quickly moving rail car looking out into the city or landscape beyond there is a sense of ambiguity that is not normally present when viewing from a slow moving or static perspective. Objects a that are closer to your eye that are normally with the most detail are now less in focus, moving too quickly for our eye to pick up on, while objects in the distance that are normally less focused are more focused and appear static. Equally odd we no longer have the perspective of the objects coming closer, they merely move past as a succession of images behind a window frame. This phenomenon is known as ‘parallax’; where by the position of an object appears to be different from two different view points. In the case of the train an object being viewed from the rail car will move at different speeds across the plane of view depending on how far away the object is from the plane of view, in this case we take the plane of view as the window in the rail car. See the diagram to the left.


Figure 1.2: ‘Portion of a movie sequence traveling north on the strip’ Learning from las vega Robert Venturi

Figure 1.3: ‘The Park’ : The Manhattan Transcripts,Bernard Tschumi

In order to investigate the conditions in which any rail traveler experiences the world around them in a visual sense, a study was carried out using a series of photographs that capture views from within the rail car looking out into the landscape. As a sample, a train journey from Dundee to Perth was made in which a photograph was taken approximately every 5 seconds. (see appendix B) This bank of photographs will form the basis for the investigation into the various spatial conditions that occur on a rail journey. Using a single image would not be an adequate study into the phenomenon, a succession of images showing and entire journey is required. The same was noticed by Robert Venturi in his observation of the Las Vegas Strip. ‘A single shot of the strip is less spectacular; its enormous spaces must be seen as a moving sequence’ [Venturi, 1977, p35] In order to investigate the linear aspect of the Las Vegas Strip he used various methods, one of which involved documenting the strip using photographs.

A sequential study carried out by Bernard Tschumi in the ‘Manhattan Transcripts’ uses a fictional narrative to investigate the multitude of different spatial and architectural conditions within New York city. This study is purely a hypothetical one and ‘They are not directed at illustrating buildings or cities, but at searching for the ideas that underlie them. Inevitably, their content is given rhythm by the turning of pages, by the time and motion that this suggests. ‘ [forward by Robert Young, Manhattan Transcripts,1994]


Using the Manhattan Transcripts as a template, a series of photographs taken from within the train out into the landscape or townscape will document the journey from Dundee to Perth. Each image in the study will then be dissected into three main components, near ground, middle ground and far groun. For each aspect the most important or striking feature will be abstracted and then finally brought back together creating an abstract interpretation of the spaces parallel to the track. This will allow for the study of how parallax influences the perception of spaces along a linear route and what aspect of the spaces change the most and the aspects that remain relatively constant. In the study a total of 27 images were used, (see appendix B) it would be impractical to use every photo taken as part of the study (as well as a large number of the photos from the middle part of the journey are very similar and little would be gained from drawing each one), therefore a number of images were chosen from the three main parts of the journey: Dundee, countryside and Perth. This is illustrated in the diagram of the study area overleaf.




Observations: Thinking Machine


1. Beginning of journey: leaving Dundee As we move from the centre of Dundee and make our way to the outskirts, there are various different spatial conditions that occur. From the close up and limited views of the train station, the busy open spaces of Tesco car parks to the open spaces along the River Tay. In the extract above, the car park , as it is low rise, allows for the horizon to be seen and fragmented nature of the parked cars to define spaces in a fairly free way, this is quickly followed by a Tay rail bridge passing overhead. This immediate structure blocks views of the surroundings and changes the spatial conditions. In the subsequent images where the rail bridge moves away, this clearly illustrates how parallax influences our perception of space. As the point of observation moves, the bridge appears to be in a different position and thus changes the experience of spaces dramatically.

2. Middle: Countryside Within the countryside there is much less, the frequency of change in spatial condition happens less regularly. In fact, within this part of the journey the eye is less occupied by what is happening close to the train and much more towards what it can easily observe and focus on more clearly, the Far ground or ‘Horizon’. This is illustrated in the sequence above where the horizon is visible in each, except for the middle, where it is interrupted by farm buildings, and then quickly returns to a consistent horizon line.

3. Bridge: 4 images in quick succession. In this short study, 4 images were taken in quick succession on the bridge just before entering the town of Perth. In this, the influence of parallax is clearly illustrated, where by the very far ground (horizon) remains relatively constant while the main object in the near to middle ground, (the river) changes over the 4 images. Obviously the river has not changed, merely the position of observation and therefore the perception of such changes.

4. End of journey: Perth As the train journey approaches its termination, it slows down as it enters the town of Perth, and travels between the buildings and above the roads of Perth. At this elevated position, tight between the roof-scape of buildings, the rail traveler has the opportunity to experience spaces that an automobile commuter is denied. A sequence of spaces that do not have the reference point of a constant horizon that are continually changing very quickly even though the train has slowed to a relatively crawling pace. 19

Creating space: models

In order investigate the spatial qualities of the linear space observed on this journey, a series of models were constructed using a sequence of the abstract drawings. A sequence that would elaborate on a linear space and show more effectively what these abstract studies can mean spatially, therefore a middle sequence of three drawings were chosen and their black or ‘solid’ elements were extruded. These drawings were chosen as they illustrate a linear space that can be read in conjunction as a linear space as well as having a series of different spatial qualities. With these plates constructed, we are able to speculate on how this can be used to make different types of space. As individual separate models their spatial qualities are limited, however, if begin to combine them in different ways they begin to reveal opportunities in how space and potentially buildings can be put together. Where there are voids, people may accommodate these spaces and move freely through them, where there is solid, these may potentially be a more private aspect of a scheme, the ‘cellular’ program, the ‘back of house’ accommodation. In the following pages the potential spatial qualities are investigated trough combining the models in different ways. Similarly, Rem Koolhaas and OMA had investigated space with the competition entry for Bibliothéque National, Paris. In the proposal, the diagram of solid (program) and void (circulation and public space) is stacked one on top of the other, creating a series of special conditions that change as you move up the building.

Model 1

Model 2

Model 3


Model 1

Model 2

Model 3

The left shows the spaces that each individual model creates. Their spatial qualities remain limited, I feel, due to that they are open at the top, and as such lends them to being representational of external spaces. On the opposite page, these have started to be combined in various different ways to create different types of space to varying degrees of success. The spaces created are documented over leaf.

Potential arrangment 1

model 1

model 3

model 2 Potential arrangment 2

model 1

model 2

model 3 Potential arrangment 3

model 3

model 1

model 2


These photos illustrate the potential spaces that are created when the models are stacked. To give the spatial studies a greater relevance, scale models of people were added to give a point of reference. This allows the viewer to gain a sense of scale to spaces created and for them to appear more occupiable.



Through the investigation into train space and how space is experienced though a linear narrative, it has allowed for the contemplation on how motion effects how a person might experience space. This has brought into the forefront ‘Time’, which is ultimately a prerequisite to motion. In the quest to create something spatial out of a linear experience it has showed how a linear experience and series of spaces might be organized into a method that, however abstract, might begin to organize a building program through ‘solids’ and ‘void’ spaces. A series of spaces that instead of being experienced linear way, are experienced vertically. With ‘time’ being a prerequisite to motion and subsequently how we experience space as we move though it, further investigation into how this has shaped how cities and town planning has developed as a result of being able to move from point A to B much quicker than ever before. In part two of this essay this is begins to be investigated under the title ‘Urbanism for the Railway: Linear Cities’


Figure 2.1: Poster advertising Arturo Soria y Mata’s proposals for his ‘Linear City’

Figure 2.2: Aerial photo of ‘La Ciudad Lineal’ now engulfed by madrid, Source: Google Earth

Urbanism for the Railway: Linear Cities

Urbanism for the Railway: Linear Cities Since the invention of the steam engine and the railway the way people conceive of distance has been altered. Trains provide a quick means in which to get from point A to B, much quicker than was previously conceived. As a result, people have become more concerned with time of travel rather than distance of travel when it comes to deciding where to live and work. This has had a great effect on how towns and cities are planned, it allows for people to have their homes in the outskirts and suburbs of cities and allow for commerce and business centers or hubs to develop exclusively in the city centre. With this idea of travel time rather than travel distance being a concern, Arturo Soria y Mata, had proposed that a city could be built up around (or rather along) its infrastructure system. Arturo Soria y Mata was born in Madrid 1844 and had lived there most of his life and was an ‘inventor, civil servant and town planner’ [Morley, 2009]. Soria y Mata’s ideas of a linear city were in contrast to his contemporary architect Idelfonso Cerdá who was responsible for the development of much of the expansion of Barcelona was using a regular rectangular grid system, Soria y Mata proposed a linear one. He proposed that a city could be built along a single line of infrastructure connecting it all and allows for good access to light, mean of transport and other parts of the city and close connection with the country side. This idea was tested with a development on the outskirts of Madrid with the ‘Compania Madrilena de Urbanizacion’ [Bromley, 2001] in 1892 to build ‘La Ciudad Lineal’, the project was intended to be a ring city enclosing Madrid at a 7km radius connected with a rail/ tram system along its length, however due to lack of funding only 5km was to be built on the cities outskirts and was completed in 1910. Since then Madrid has expanded and has engulfed the suburb that once was part of the country side, see aerial photo. 29

Figure 2.3: Unfortunatly there are no plans indicating where this linear city from Cadiz to St petersburg. However, can we specualte? Could the route set out above work as a Linear City connecting cities across Europe?

Figure 2.4: Illustration of la ciudad lineal and how it may connect towns or Cities and sectional layout of such linear city.

Figure 2.5: Arturo Spria y Mata. Sectional layout of ‘La ciudad Lineal’

‘The Linear City’ served a test piece for one of Soria y Mata’s more radical suggestions. Mitchell Schwarzer in his book ‘Zoomscapes’ notes that ‘ in 1882, the Spanish Architect Arturo Soria y Mata had proposed a narrow linear city, just 500metres wide, that would extend thousands of miles along a rail axis from Cadiz, Spain, to St Petersburg, Russia – a trans-European linearopolis’. [Schwarzer, 2004. p 57] The section of the Linear City show a 5km strip was a ‘linear suburb of fairly dense low-rise housing all along the axis of a combined railway/ tramway/boulevard’ [Bromley, R. 2001] The principle of having the housing a distance away from the rail lines to avoid the pollution and noise etc has been in many other transport based urban planning theories that would be discussed later in the 20th century. In ‘Towards a New Architecture’ Le Corbusier takes this idea of high density living with a green buffer zone separating them from the transport and applies it to a road network.

Figure 2.6: Le Corbusiers ‘City of Towers’ , Towards a New Architecture


Figure 2.7: Illustration of Le Corbusier’ proposal for his own linear development along infastructure. ‘obus’ Algiers, North Africa

Like Soria y Matta who had big ideas for the railway, Le Corbusier too had big ideas for the automobile. Le Corbusier had made number of proposals for the city of Algiers in North Africa, the first and most important one being ‘obus’ in 1933. This proposal ‘involves long viaducts of houses, businesses, and walkways running along the city’s coast-- essentially a highway city’ [Dicks, N. 2006] This was the first of many proposals that would gain ‘recognition’ from the cities government over a 10 year period but would ultimately never be realized. However, a small portion or test piece would be realized in the centre of Algiers in 1952 with the ‘living bridge’ where a block of residences allows for traffic to pass over the top as per Le Corbusier’ proposals in 1933. [Marco, V (ed). Date unknown] Figure 2.8: Part realization of Le Corbusier’ vision. The ‘Living Bridge’

Figure 2.9: Plan, Le Corbusiers proposal for Algiers, ‘obus’, showing the connection of neighbourhoods st-Eugene and Hussein-Dey.

Figure 2.11: Nolly plan of the Las Vegas Strip. Venturi notes how the buildings are spaced far apart so that the gable of the building takes most advantage of the visual range of the oncomming traffic.

Later again in the 20th Century Robert Venturi would discuss in his book ‘Learning From Las Vegas’ how the Las Vegas strip has evolved as a linear system of buildings that react to the conditions that a motorway provided them. He shows how the city has developed a main linear route that (the Las Vegas Strip’) in which buildings are set back from the road like that of ‘La Ciudad Lineal’ and the space between has been filled with parking lots instead of greenery, to allow commuters to park their personal vehicle. However, the main difference between Le Corbusier’s model, Robert Venturi’s observations and Soria y Mata’s model is they are based on the motorcar being the main source of transport. This difference is important because while on a train, the view ahead and what is coming is denied, while in a automobile the traveler has full view of the oncoming buildings. This is observed by Venturi

‘Front footage on the strip has not yet reached the value as it once had on the main street, parking is still an appropriate filler, big space between buildings is characteristic of the strip.’-‘The side elevation of the complex is important, because it is seen by approaching traffic from a greater distance and for a longer time than the façade’. [Venturi, 1977, p35]

Figure 2.11: Sectional study of the Las Vegas strip made by Robert Venturi in his book, ‘Learning from Las Vegas’


Figure 2.11:

Section of Linear City as proposed by Gilles Gauthiers

However, as we move into the 21st Century, the use of public transport like those of trams and trains etc is growing in support for environmental reasons and people are beginning to fall out of love with their private car. As a result this may mark a return to Soria y Mata’s model of the ‘Linear City’. Canadian Architect Gilles Gauthier puts forward a solution to the ecological problem using the Linear City model as a basis, in which cities are built along a railway and subway system, removing the need for transport by car, and will give all of its inhabitants the opportunity to live close to the countryside, an idea that was first mentioned by Soria y Mata Soria y Mata’s linear city was intended to “ruralize the city and urbanize the countryside” [Bromley, 2001]

Figure 2.12:

Computer Visulization of Linear City as proposed by Gilles Gauthiers


Figure 2.13: A distorted view of Europe based on time of travel rather than distance, with Lille at its centre. From S,M,L,XL


In conclusion, the development of the linear city along a rail infrastructure has been hampered mostly by the development of the auto-mobile, as this was a much more desirable method of travel as it allows for unlimited directions of travel. Gauthier believes that Soria y Mata’s proposal were never fully realized because the technology of the time were not up to the challenge. ‘Though town-planning experiments and utopian projects have helped us improve on our city’s designs. We haven’t yet reached the quality level the available technologies allow, that’s why the deam of a linear city by Arturo Soria y Mata didn’t work in 1882.’ [GAUTHIER, G. Date unknown] Perhaps the ideas on linear living present by le Corbusier with ‘obus’ were much to drastic and imposing on a landscape to be ever accepted, however, the modern obsession with time of travel rather than distance of travel will remain and be contemplated upon, and may even alter how we conceive distance. In S,M,L,XL Koolhaas illustrates this through an altered map of Europe showing time of travel rather than distance by taking Lille as the centre point if his observations. ‘Lille is the place to start. And even if you are an English company and can’t afford to establish yourself in London, you could set up an office in northern France and be “closer” to the city of London than you would be in some parts of greater London itself. The English are buying houses

nearby because Lille-London will be faster than Kent-London’

[KOOLHAAS,1995.S,M,L,XL. p1158]



VENTURI, R. 1977, Learning from Las Vegas: the forgotten symbolism of architectural form. Revised Edition. MIT press SCHWARZER, M. 2004. Zoomscapes: Architecture in motion and media. Princeton Architectural press KOOLHAAS, R. 1995. S,M,L,XL: Office for Metropolitan Architecture. The Monacelli press LE CORBUSIER, 1986, Towards a New Architecture, Dover edition, Dover publications inc TSCHUMI, B. 1994. The Manhattan Transcripts. New ed. John wiley & son ltd BOESIGER, W (ed).1935. Le Corbusier Complete works, volume 2 1929-34, 14th uncorrected reprint, 1999 MORLEY, R. 2009. A view of Madrid, linear living. Website: http://aviewofmadrid. . 8th Dec 2009 BROMLEY, R. 2001. Lecture 12: Soria y Matta arch528/fall2001/lecture12/soria.html . 8th Dec 2009

GUERRESCHI, R. 2005. Polycentric Linear City: a prototype for a transit-based intermodal corridor development. . 15th Jan 2010 GAUTHIER, G. Linear City: Environmental and Social Solution. . 8th Dec 2009 DICKS, N. 2006. Le Corbusier-Algiers Plans(1934-1942) http://cu-megablog.blogspot. com/2006/08/le-corbusier-algiers-plans-1931-1942.html . 15th Jan 2010

MARCO, V (ed). Date unknown . 2010

15th Jan



Extra reading images & Process


Artistic influences & reading.

A Passing Glimpse I often see flowers from a passing car That are gone before I can tell what they are I want ti get out if the train and go back To see what they were beside the track Was something brushed across my mind That no-one on earth will ever find? Heaven gives its glimpses only to those Not in a position to look too close

Robert Frost ‘‘A passig Glimpse’’ in complete poems of Robert Frost (New york: Henry holt & co. 1949), 311 Cited by SCHWARZER, M. 2004. Zoomscapes: Architecture in motion and media. Princeton Architectural press, p56

Edward Hopper trains.pdf Compartment C, Car 293 shows a solitary woman reading inside a train car. Her face is mostly hidden by a very stylish hat and she chooses to sit on the aisle, not by the window. It is also an unusual composition with the roof section of the traincreating an inverted triangle shape that seems to point to the little electric light that is on the wall. Is our mystery woman waiting for someone to take the space next to her? An interesting note: Hopper used his wife Jo as his model for most of his figurative paintings.

In an early painting, Railroad Train, Hopper places the horizon line on an angle to increase the sense of speed already implied with the stream of smoke that crosses the entire canvas. When squinted at properly, this composition is made up of horizontal bands of color with the yellow ground mirroring the color of the yellow smoke.

Chair Car is of the interior of a passenger train. Hopper uses the perspective of the train to pull us into the seemingly cathedral like space of this train interior. The light on the side of the windows and floor create a balance of yellow and green light & color. And even though his train is populated, none of these humans are interacting with each other.

APPENDIX B Method & Process

The following documents how process gone though in order to investigate ‘Linear Space as Part of a Narrative’. On the rail trip from Dundee to Perth, a photo was taken approxomitly every 5 seconds in order to ensure an adequate ducumentation of the journey. From this collection of photos a number of which were selected to be part of the abstract study. These were selected to ensure a variety of different spatial conditions were investigated. Right is a sketch planning out the journey, in the following pages the journey is documented with the images that were selected to be part of the abstract study marked in red.


Interpretations of each of the selected images carried done by hand on a drawing board






Eadweard Maybridge Possible avenue in which this study of ‘Linear space’ could have gone down. Eadweard Maybridge carried ground breaking studies into how people and animals moved and pioneered what would eventually become video recording. Documenting the journey in this fashion may have revieled other opportunites and results

Initial/ draft process models Draft process models in which the possibily of investigating spatial qualities that the linear spaces could provide. Through these it was concluded that bigger, more neatly made models would be built (right) using stacked lazer cut pieces of card.

DRU - Speedy Spaces  

4th Year Design Research Unit, entitled Seedy Spaces, Investigation into the interpritation of space and urban planning along railway lines