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2004

PREDOMINANT PATHS Andrew d’Occhio

The adjacent speculative project grew from a nagging discomfort with orthographic representation. These drawings told nothing of architecture. In order to turn angst into urban position, the question was asked, If this isn’t architecture, what is? Could an answer be found not in the inert but perhaps in the ephemeral, in the moment between human and built? In the moment that is a product of sensation, of shadow, of warmth, of smooth, of sour? Is this the reality of architecture, while Euclidean and relative relationships are its distortion? If architecture is human experience, how does a designer, at an urban scale, direct an audience subject to its own whim, will, and desires? A clue was locatd within the project: a tall building incorporating multiple floors of commercial space, a boutique hotel, consumer outlets, recreational amenities, services, and car parking. It was not these program elements themselves, but their required integration with an existing passenger train station, that caused a shift in thinking. A train station behaves as a fixed node in an individual’s journey: From a station one travels to another activity, say work, and later in the day to another, this time a restaurant for lunch. It is possible to suggest that a city’s experience occurs as a byproduct of navigating its point source of activity, each in turn exerting an influence over the direction of one’s path and experience. The nature of this path/activity relationship can be described as magnetic, with an ability to draw paths toward it dependent on its type, density, and patronage. A single café, for instance, if it were the only one within four blocks of a built-up area, might create strong paths toward or by it; if it were one of many within the same block, however, its influence would probably wane. A building housing a civic activity might be the only in the city center and would exert a sustained and substantial influence on local paths traveled. To attempt to influence the major paths experienced, one must strategically position each activity at both urban and architectural scales. With this in mind, each brief element was given a loose rating in terms of its potential influence on local pedestrian paths. The train station, along with the required carparking allocation, rated highly as both an arrival and destination point. In combination with predominant local pedestrian paths, these formed experiential connections with the adjacent field.


the ideal model with its separate system of walkways. Planning literature has lauded and advocated this concept ever since. The time may have come to rethink the idea. If nothing else, it is certainly not cost-effective to build separate channels for different purposes when they are in very light use. Coal and ice deliveries are no longer made to residences, volumes of ash and horse manure do not have to be removed, automobiles do not have to speed the last few hundred feet at the beginning and end of their home-based trips. Children should be able to play in front of their homes and people walk unimpeded and unafraid, and the natural patterns of vegetation growth and water drainage should be respected. It is, therefore, both possible and advisable to think of neighborhoods as safe and green residential enclaves at the human scale of operations. This starts with the recognition that, while walking pace is about 4 mph, motor vehicles have to be slowed down to, let us say, 18 mph within these areas. They become thereby nonthreatening to people, and drivers can stop vehicles immediately when necessary. This is by no means a new idea by itself. Traffic calming and neotraditional designs have been around for several decades. Neotraditional communities as conceived by the so-called new urbanists keep people and vehicles on the same channel but rely on street designs from the 19th century, largely for nostalgic reasons and to achieve interconnectivity. Traffic calming, on the other hand, is the real conceptual base of this discussion. It started in Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark some years ago, but has now become known worldwide, and there are plenty of applications, including retrofits. The idea is that people and vehicles should be able to mix freely—by slowing down all mechanical movements. Cars are not excluded, but they are severely constrained in terms of velocity. Speed-limit signs are not enough; to make sure that some idiot does not violate the integrity of the concept, physical obstacles (speed humps, protrusions, pavement textures, etc.) are added. By this time, there is a wealth of literature and examples of traffic calming, and no further discussion is required here.

PROPOSAL UQ 125

The next step toward sustainability has emerged more recently, and is known as green streets. This concept reacts to the standard practice of paving over much of the land surface (roofs, wide street pavements, driveways) that retards replenishment of ground water by rainfall, conducting runoff into underground pipes and discarding it, and


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