4 Cities of
Cities of Dispersal
Guest-edited by Rafi Segal and Els Verbakel
4 Architectural Design Forthcoming Titles 2008
March/April 2008, Profile No 192
Versatility and Vicissitude: Performance in Morpho-Ecological Design Guest-edited by Michael Hensel and Achim Menges
This third AD by the guest-editors of the highly successful Emergence and Techniques and Technologies in Morphogenetic Design titles shifts the morpho-ecological design project into the realm of performance. Whereas the dictionary definition of performance – to ‘carry out an action’ or ‘to fulfil a task’ – invokes a tired utilitarian debate, Hensel and Menges inject the meaning of the word ‘performance’ with an entirely new life. In this context, form is redefined not as the shape of a material object alone, but as the multitude of effects, a milieu of conditions, modulations and microclimates that emanate from an object’s exchange with its specific environment; a dynamic relationship that is perceived and interacted with by a subject. A synergetic employment of performance and morpho-ecological techniques combine to create integral design solutions that will render an alternative model for sustainability. This issue presents historical precursors and precedents for this approach, as well as the current state of the art of morpho-ecological design. Key contributors include: Klaus Bollinger and Manfred Grohmann of Bollinger & Grohmann, Aleksandra Jaeschke, OCEAN NORTH, Professor Remo Pedreschi, Defne Sunguro˘ glu, Peter Trummer and Michael Weinstock.
May/June 2008, Profile No 193
Interior Atmospheres Guest-edited by Julieanna Preston
What does one mean when describing a room as atmospheric? Does it allude to a space that has been designed, stylised or even thematised? Is it a spatial quality conditioned by one’s perception? Does atmosphere originate from material attributes inherent to interior finishes and décor? Is it simply the dramatic effect resulting from skilful use of lighting and colour? Is atmosphere an immersive ambience? How is atmosphere crafted? Does it have a critical edge, literally and theoretically? Visually exciting and provocative, Interior Atmospheres combines contemporary projects and interviews alongside analytical essays. Authors such as Rachel Carley, Ted Krueger, Malte Wagenfeld and Hélène Frichot explore the distinctions between visible and invisible realms within architectural design. The technological interface between design and atmosphere is tested through digital and creative material works by Petra Blaisse, Kevin Klinger, Gregory Luhan, Andrew Kudless, Walter Niedermayr, Kazuo Sejima and Ryue Nizhisawa, LaMonte Young and Marian Zazeela, Joel Sanders and Karen Van Legnen, Scott Gowans and Steve Wright and Lewis Tsurumaki Lewis Architects. Paul James, Mary Anne Beecher and Lois Weinthal probe the physical limits of atmosphere in regard to site, 'the outside' and interiority. Contributors and projects straddle the boundaries of design, art and architecture in order to gain a fuller understanding of atmosphere’s elusive and pervasive presence.
July/August 2008, Profile No 194
Proto Architecture: Analogue and Digital Hybrids Guest-edited by Bob Sheil
The illusive and uncertain world of translating ideas into matter is a negotiation between the ideal and the real and a central preoccupation of architectural production. By invading the toolbox of digital fabrication, design has transgressed into protocols of manufacturing previously the domain of other disciplines and skills sets. Craft, assembly and installation, once the realm of trades, are qualities that are now dependent upon design information and its status as an instruction to make. The ensuing loop between the physical and tactile, the imaginary and speculative, has defined a new expectation in making architecture as a construct that is part real, part ideal. With contributions from Lebbeus Woods, Evan Douglis, Theo Jansen, Shin Egashira and many more, Proto-Architecture presents an explicitly diverse collection of works from leading and emerging practitioners, educators, researchers and visionaries from all corners of the innovative field.
Architectural Design January/February 2008
Cities of Dispersal
Guest-edited by Rafi Segal and Els Verbakel
ISBN-978 0470 06637 9 Profile No 191 Vol 78 No 1
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[ISSN: 0003-8504] Advertisement Sales Faith Pidduck/Wayne Frost T: +44 (0)1243 770254 E: firstname.lastname@example.org Editorial Board Will Alsop, Denise Bratton, Mark Burry, André Chaszar, Nigel Coates, Peter Cook, Teddy Cruz, Max Fordham, Massimiliano Fuksas, Edwin Heathcote, Michael Hensel, Anthony Hunt, Charles Jencks, Jan Kaplicky, Robert Maxwell, Jayne Merkel, Michael Rotondi, Leon van Schaik, Neil Spiller, Michael Weinstock, Ken Yeang Contributing Editor Jayne Merkel All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise, except under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 or under the terms of a licence issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency Ltd, 90 Tottenham Court Road, London W1T 4LP, UK, without the permission in writing of the Publisher. Front cover: Desert within a city: proposed plan for the city of Beer Sheva, Israel, 2007. Rafi Segal (with Yonatan Cohen and Kate Snider). © Rafi Segal
4 is published bimonthly and is available to purchase on both a subscription basis and as individual volumes at the following prices. Single Issues Single issues UK: £22.99 Single issues outside UK: US$45.00 Details of postage and packing charges available on request. Annual Subscription Rates 2008 Institutional Rate Print only or Online only: UK£180/US$335 Combined Print and Online: UK£198/US$369 Personal Rate Print only: UK£110/US$170 Student Rate Print only: UK£70/US$110 Prices are for six issues and include postage and handling charges. Periodicals postage paid at Jamaica, NY 11431. Air freight and mailing in the USA by Publications Expediting Services Inc, 200 Meacham Avenue, Elmont, NY 11003 Individual rate subscriptions must be paid by personal cheque or credit card. Individual rate subscriptions may not be resold or used as library copies. All prices are subject to change without notice. Postmaster Send address changes to 3 Publications Expediting Services, 200 Meacham Avenue, Elmont, NY 11003
Editorial Helen Castle
Water and Asphalt The Project of Isotropy in the Metropolitan Region of Venice Paola Viganò
6 Introduction Urbanism Without Density Rafi Segal and Els Verbakel
The Public and the V2 Bruce Robbins
Intermittent Cities On Waiting Spaces and How to Inhabit Transforming Cities Claudia Faraone and Andrea Sarti
Terminal Distribution Albert Pope
String Block Vs Superblock Patterns of Dispersal in China Kjersti Monson
22 Public Lifestyle in the Low-Density City Alex Wall
54 In the Our Beautiful Future Martha Rosler
Old Dispersions and Scenes for the Production of Public Space The Constructive Margins of Secondarity Bruno De Meulder
Archipelago of the Negev Desert A Temporal/Collective Plan for Beer Sheva, Israel Rafi Segal
64 Peripheral Landscapes, El Caracol, Mexico City Jose Castillo
Urban Voids: Grounds for Change Reimagining Philadelphia’s Vacant Lands Deenah Loeb
Ville-Port, Saint-Nazaire The Historic Periphery Manuel de Solà-Morales
Interior Eye Reinvigorating Childhood Howard Watson
Nam Van Square, Macau Manuel Vicente
Practice Profile KieranTimberlake Associates Jayne Merkel
74 Urban [IM]plants Tactics for Recombining Landscape and Collective Space in Bonheiden, Belgium Els Verbakel and Elie Derman
80 User-Focused Public Space (M)UTOPIA in Denmark Serban Cornea
84 Royal Dutch Military Police Campus Zvi Hecker’s Landscape Urbanism Rafi Segal
100 Mur Island, Graz, Austria Vito Acconci
102 Discussion Architecture and Dispersal Rafi Segal and Els Verbakel with Stan Allen, Marcel Smets, Sarah Whiting and Margaret Crawford
120+ Userscape Natural Methods of Interaction Or Natural Interaction in the Everyday Digital World Valentina Croci
124+ Spiller’s Bits Putting the ‘I’ back into Architecture Neil Spiller
126+ Unit Factor Radical Interface AA New Media Research Initiative Joel Newman, Theodore Spyropoulos and Vasilis Stroumpakos
130+ Yeang’s Eco-Files On Green Design (Part 3) The Basic Premises for Green Design Ken Yeang
134+ McLean’s Nuggets Will McLean
Editorial When most people are asked where they would like to live, they will answer quite categorically the town or the country. Yet fewer and fewer people worldwide actually inhabit city centres or truly rural surroundings. Home for most of us is somewhere in between, whether it be outer- or inner-city suburbia, urban sprawl or a makeshift shanty town. This is a trend that is set to intensify with the growth of the world’s population from 5 billion in 1987 to 6.7 billion in 2007. According to the UN Habitat 2006 Annual Report, for the first time in history half of the people worldwide are now living in towns or cities; this shift towards urbanisation is only set to continue with 60 per cent of the world’s population living in or around cities by 2030. Whereas growth and diffusion of urbanity has been most famously associated with the ‘edge city’ of Los Angeles or the unharnessed development of illegal housing in India and South America, it is a situation that affects us all. It is most apparent in some of the small wealthiest nations of northwestern Europe, such as Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK, where space is scarce and, despite falling birth rates, their buoyant economies continue to attract migrant workers, boosting their ageing populations. This is epitomised by the Dutch conurbation of the Randstad, made up of the four major cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague, and their respective satellite towns, which form a continuous rim around a green heartland. One also only has to drive along the M4 corridor to wonder where London begins or ends. Rafi Segal and Els Verbakel’s title of AD represents an important shift in mindset and aspirations. It squarely positions the dispersed city as a fertile territory for architectural intervention. Whereas outer urban areas have conventionally been the stronghold of the house builder or commercial developer, it places architects and urban designers’ sights on exurbia. Segal and Verbakel regard ‘dispersal as an opportunity to reinvent urbanity’, and specifically to question the notion of public space, which was traditionally positioned in the centre of cities. Featured projects range across the world from Macau in southern China to Copenhagen and Mexico City. Sometimes the investigations are theoretical, but always the focus is on application. Both guest-editors have undertaken projects in this field; Segal here publishes his own project for Beer Sheva in the Negev Desert of Israel, and Verbakel her scheme for the town of Bonheiden in Flemish Belgium. What all the contributors share is an understanding of the possibilities of reinventing and re-editing the given built environment. Abandoned is the notion of Modernist control; to have a place in this setting one has to be deft and flexible, content to engage with the world as it is rather than to recast it as one would like it to be. 4 Helen Castle
Guy Saggee, Digital print, 2007 In a response to the theme of this issue and in collaboration with its guest-editors, graphic artist Guy Saggee explored images of dispersed cities. Similar to the production of collective space in dispersed urban conditions, his graphic technique of dithering produces a blurred image interspersed with emerging patterns. Text © 2008 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Image © Guy Saggee
The predominance of sprawling, low-density urban environments throughout the world begs the question: What constitutes a city? Such environments also require us to rethink public space, traditionally at the core of city centres. Rafi Segal and Els Verbakel outline the challenges and opportunities that cities of dispersal raise.
the American context),1 ‘wild living’ and the ‘diffused city’ (‘citta diffusa’ – mostly referring to the European context).2 Dispersal functions as an umbrella term for these phenomena, by zooming out and describing them as part of a larger global tendency. In this context, Cities of Dispersal can be recognised as emerging types of low-density environments: decentralised, heterogeneous, and radically different from traditional definitions of the city in their spatial organisation and patterns of growth.3
Our built environment is in the process of reorganising itself, redistributing densities of buildings, population and activities. Cities are expanding, growing and sprawling, while at the same time their centres and downtowns are shrinking, disappearing, voiding out.
Between 1960 and 1990, the population in more than 200 American cities increased by 47%, while urbanised land increased by 107%, resulting in a density decrease of 28%. Statistics from David Rusk, Cities Without Suburbs, Woodrow Wilson Center Press (Washington), 1995
By mid-century, the populations of 39 countries are projected to be smaller than they are today: for example, Japan and Germany 14% smaller, Italy and Hungary 25% smaller, and the Russian Federation, Georgia and Ukraine between 28 and 40% smaller. Statistics from World Population Prospects: The 2000 Revision, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations, 2000 This process of growth and redistribution has been partially described by terms such as ‘sprawl’, ‘suburbs’ (with roots in
Throughout these physical transformations of the urban environment, the notion of public space has not remained unaltered. Public space has long been a decisive factor in our understanding of the city. Furthermore, we can say that the notion of the public itself, even if by virtue of imagination, has been essential for any act of urban design or planning.4 It is therefore inevitable to ask: What is the place and role of public space in new dispersed urban environments? How have dispersed urban conditions changed the notion of public? And what are the current notions of the public that influence the way we conceive cities?
50% of US housing is suburban, 20% of US housing is non-metropolitan. From American Housing Survey for the United States: 2001, US Census Bureau, 2002 The traditional distinction between the urban and the nonurban relied on a hierarchical organisation of density. Cities at the centre were the densest, most concentrated, moving to less dense areas towards the suburbs, the countryside, and yet further to the wilderness. These different types of environments not only presented different degrees of human intervention and habitation, they also developed different ways of living. The opposition between negative and positive attributes of city and countryside has long been supported by clear boundaries between one and the other, be it through walls, ring roads, green belts and the like. Yet over the course of the 20th century, whether due to economic, industrial, military or technological developments, the distinctions between city, suburb, countryside and wilderness have become blurred. In their currently advanced state of dispersal, cities have lost their traditional boundaries.5 Due to a redistribution of urban activities and intensities, we can no longer recognise a clear pattern of high density in the centre and lower densities at the periphery. In this process, programmes that were previously associated with the city centre, such as commerce, office work, leisure and entertainment, have been transplanted to suburbia and have taken on a different shape. Suburbs, new towns and satellite cities, initially designated for housing, have gradually become multifunctional environments, independent of the city. The distinction between the city as a centre and suburbia as its subordinate kin has become, in many cases, neither accurate nor appropriate. Low-density environments have ceased to be sub-urban, no longer relying on the city as their centre, or raison d’ê tre. Many of these low-density environments (also outside the European and American context), despite their increasing
integration within urban systems, are generally not viewed as urban or as cities. This is mainly due to their lack of density and centrality, the absence of a coherent urban fabric or distinguishable boundaries, and a ‘damaged’ relationship between the pedestrian and urban space.6 More importantly, they are seen to lack the conventional forms and uses of urban public spaces to which we have become accustomed. Current attempts to qualify dispersal usually refer to the loss of these characteristics.7 Yet when we look at examples of sprawling cities such as Los Angeles and Mexico City, or larger, spread-out areas such as the Veneto region in Italy or the state of New Jersey, we find different urbanities that have emerged from such apparent losses. Dispersal has led many to paint a sombre picture of an irresponsible ‘non-urbanity’, from which the only escape is a move back into the city. However, if we are to accept Rem Koolhaas’ claim that the city is dead, or Mark Wigley’s statement that the city has ceased to be a useful idea in planning, we are left in confusion, with losses on both sides.8 This issue of AD treats dispersal as an opportunity to reinvent urbanity. It questions whether the urban should remain reserved solely for the dense physical environment. Can not the notion of the city be established through combined degrees of interaction, access and communication that do not necessarily require high densities? High degrees of exchange, interconnectivity, the overlapping of networks, juxtapositions and proximities of diverse programmes – all can create an intensity that generates an urban condition, urban in its function, notions and experiences (chance, anonymity, conflict, and so on). Moreover, in the process of seeking new opportunities for alternative urbanities, the notion of public space itself needs to be questioned. Recent studies of contemporary urbanities have suggested that traditional definitions of public space are no longer accurate to describe chance encounters, temporary spaces of gathering, partially accessible meeting places, commercialised and themed entertainment. Can we, then, replace the more
Mexico City, Mexico
demanding term ‘public space’ with the somewhat more adaptable option of ‘collective space’? And how does this impact our understanding of the city? Within the field of urban design and planning, the shaping of public space has been considered the primary task of the architect or urbanist.9 Its role and place in the city as a space of gathering and exchange has been treated as a kind of ‘glue’ that holds together the city and promises to generate urban coherence and active use. Yet this notion has undergone substantial changes. Rather than a singular, continuous sphere or space, the public today is better understood as a fragmentary interplay of multiple publics and multiple groups. The idea of a public sphere, as identified by J Habermas as having emerged from 18th-century bourgeois society,10 no longer functions for the reasons that brought it about – as the place where opinions and ideas about society and state were formed and discussed. With the rise of consumption culture, the public sphere has become an ‘arena for advertising’ channelled at pleasing various tastes and personal preferences. With this understanding, critical reason is seen to have shifted to other groups (lawyers, doctors, academics, and so on) who engage in it un-publicly, while mass consumers might have a public receptiveness but remain non-critical.11 This shift of rationalism and criticism has left the public sphere prone to stronger forces such as marketisation and privatisation, processes that have been considered by some a threat to democracy. Public space, according to this conception, is essential to the preservation of democracy since it provides the space for freedom of speech and public assembly, enables the publicising of dissent, maintains awareness of the needs of others, and allows the organisation of grassroots campaigns.12 Mechanisms that have contributed to the privatisation of public space (at least within the American context), such as the reorganisation of collective space towards consumption, the extension of undemocratic governance systems such as home-owners associations and development districts, and
jurisprudence13 – preoccupied with locating the boundary between public and private – can be seen as those mechanisms that also propagated urban sprawl. Our changing notion of the public has thus allowed certain forms of urbanity to evolve, but on the other hand changes in the urban realm have contributed to creating new notions of public space. The problem lies in the fact that there is not always a clear or direct correlation between social, political and cultural notions – in this case the notion of the public – and their architectural or urban expression. While the public is an abstract, highly dynamic, at times vague and unpredictable notion, urban space by its nature refers to concrete places that undergo slower processes of change in appropriating new conceptions and conditions. This inertia of the urban environment is enhanced by the general tendency (also of architects and urbanists) to preserve old models and expressions even though they may no longer serve current necessities.14 Many previous approaches to public space in sprawled conditions have attempted to impose traditional urban models rather than seek new types of spaces, forms and programmes. They have seldom led to innovative work and have often contradicted contemporary notions of scale, diversity and flexibility. The Congress for the New Urbanism, for example, proposes the reintegration of traditional forms of public space such as urban plazas, commercial main streets and other components of a townscape tradition within contemporary sprawled environments. Its approach operates within a new urban condition that assumes a notion of an old public – mimicking traditional architecture (and a historic way of life), enforcing pedestrian movement, limiting social diversity, and discouraging long-distance commuting even when these are alien to the way we live today. Other approaches to urban dispersal understand and thus address contemporary notions of the public and public space but without projecting new urban configurations, and
Schiphol, The Netherlands
without considering the need for a new urban/architectural expression. Reinterpreting Foucault, Grahame Shane and many others explain how the concept of heterotopia provides opportunities for hosting contemporary spaces of gathering or collectivity within the city.15 Yet a primary trait of heterotopia is its ‘mirror-function’. It mirrors an existing reality, meaning it does not carry a form or shape of itself. It is not particular to any specific physical-spatial setting, but rather capable of taking on several forms/shapes/arrangements present in the existing environment. Identifying heterotopia as a type of public space does not therefore require a new urbanarchitectural setting.16 While these approaches have contributed considerably to the discourse on dispersal and the role of architects/urbanists within this type of environment, the relationship between new publics and new urban spaces has yet to be explored, potentially leading to more innovative models and approaches of design and intervention. Cities of Dispersal is an attempt in this direction. It calls for an investigation of the public and/or collective dimensions of dispersed urban conditions, presenting both research essays and design examples from different scales, cultures and geographies. Two framing essays open the issue, offering new ways of looking at the relationship between collective spaces and urban dispersal. Bruce Robbins, in ‘The Public and the V2’, describes how certain literary ideas of public space can possibly inform urban thinking. In parallel, Albert Pope examines the morphological and structural processes that characterise the development of low-density urbanisms. The essays, research and design projects that follow present an interpretation, understanding and/or critique of how new forms of collective space can be imagined. The research presented in this issue includes parts of the extensive studies and mappings of European urban dispersal by Bruno De Meulder (on Flanders) and Paola Viganó (on the Veneto region).
Alex Wall outlines the emerging typology of lifestyle centres, large-scale commercial complexes situated in lowdensity urban areas, as a possible prototype for a new kind of public space. The dominance of bigness within urban sprawl is also examined by Kjersti Monson in a critical investigation of the Chinese superblock, one of the most rapid modes of urban expansion worldwide. These critical observations are further explored by a series of much more speculative projects. Martha Rosler’s ‘utopian community’ challenges existing structures of interaction and advances the potential of the art project as space for social change. The notion of utopia also characterises the Beer Sheva (Israel) proposal by Rafi Segal, which imagines the desert landscape as a site of shared, temporal programmes that function as urban voids, separating different communitybased neighbourhood islands. The use of landscape, agriculture, ecological tourism and other forms of programmed open spaces become alternatives to redensifying former city centres such as the urban voids of Philadelphia (the ‘Grounds for Change’ competition proposals) featured in Deenah Loeb’s article. In other projects such as Jose Castillo’s El Caracol in Mexico City, landscape becomes a strategy for urban peripheries. Both cases present the transformation of a ‘negative’ useless space to a positive attractor, while establishing a new balance of built and open space for ecological and infrastructural functions, and the betterment of urban living, The last section of the issue pulls together a series of built work, or projects under construction, some of which emphasise a method for urban growth and renewal rather than offer one solution. Els Verbakel and Elie Derman present a ‘toolbox of interventions’ – a method for combining green and collective spaces – for the suburban town of Bonheiden in Belgium. Danish group MUTOPIA propose an interactive approach that utilises user-based computer software to aid in appropriating collective spaces.
From a more direct architectural point of view, the meeting of dispersal and the notion of collective space produces intriguing projects such as Zvi Hecker’s KMar campus in Amsterdam or Manuel de Solà-Morales’ mixed-use project in Saint-Nazaire, France, where the conventional distinction between city, building and landscape is questioned. These projects manage to overcome a restricted and problematic site, reproducing their own context and creating a sequence of inner voids/open spaces that are integral to the architecture. The potential of public space as an island can be seen in the Nam Van Square project in Macau (Manuel CM Vicente, Carlotta Bruni and Rui Leão) and in Vito Acconci’s Mur Island, a temporary floating bridge/gathering space. Both of these suggest, on different scales, that infrastructure can generate multi-use spaces, rather than monofunctional structures intended only for movement from one place to the other. This collection of research essays, projects and built work raises questions on how to approach the ‘emptiness’ of the dispersed city, how to use, appropriate and inhabit the space in between spread-out buildings, and how to redefine this space as part of the public realm. 17 These questions provide a major challenge for architects and urbanists, who have tended to ‘look down’ on dispersal, conveniently avoiding it, claiming no responsibility for its outcome. The projects and explorations presented here point out the opportunities of what are commonly seen as negative characteristics of sprawl, low density, suburbs and the diffused city. Fragments become islands, voids become landscapes, lack of context becomes an opportunity to create an artificial context, large distances and building plots provoke super-size design approaches, and the non 24/7 lifespan of programmes opens up a redefinition of accidental places of gathering. The unbearable fluidity of dispersal has the potential to be transformed into a more grounded condition whereby new collective spaces take a prominent role: whether ecological, utopian, social. Whether in the form
of super-size islands, piecemeal implants or ad hoc and userbased events, they are spatialised not by streets and piazzas but by infrastructure and landscape. In addition to the potential of the void, the question also arises whether the notion of public space may be replaced by spaces of collectivity, less dependent on designations of democracy and freedom. Here there is room for broader discussions concerning the place of collective spaces in sociopolitical processes, and the role of the architect/urbanist in these processes through the shaping and programming of space – whether by offering new imaginations of collective life, or by repeating conventional forms associated with past notions of the city. The selected essays, projects and buildings that appear in this issue of AD aspire to address the former rather than the latter, thereby unfolding a spectrum of critical and self-conscious approaches that contribute to a new field of research and design yet to be further defined and explored. 4 Notes 1. In the American context, and consequently other regions in the world, sprawl has largely been initiated by the post-Second World War housing crisis, the democratisation of ‘the good life’, and the encouragement of consumption: a growing demand and supply of choice, privacy and mobility. Also in Europe, suburban communities gained importance after the Second World War with massive reconstruction efforts and the creation of new towns as satellite settlements around existing cities. 2. ‘Diffused city’, a term invented during the 1990s to describe the spread-out urban fabric of Italy’s northern Veneto region, has been adopted to identify multiple regions in Europe such as the Dutch Randstad, the Flemish Diamond, the German Ruhr area and others. These areas have grown from a network of medium- to small-size cities interspersed with former agricultural territories and rural villages, transformed into a mixture of industrial parks, commercial complexes and suburban housing. Similarly, the term ‘wild living’ refers to the massive inhabitation of the dispersed European territory. Originally introduced in reaction to Dutch government-controlled standardised housing, it came to describe the process of modernising the rural landscape as a means to prevent city growth. 3. Even though much attention has recently been drawn to cities being built from scratch, whether in China or the Middle East, the phenomenon of urban dispersal – the spreading out of existing metropolitan areas – is much greater in scope. 4. ‘If we did not have a practical sense of what publics are, if we could not unself-consciously take them for granted as really existing and addressable
Beer Sheva, Israel
social entities, we could not produce most of the books or films or broadcasts or journals that make up so much of our culture; we could not conduct elections or indeed imagine ourselves as members of nations or movements. Yet publics exist only by virtue of their imagining.’ Michael Warner, Publics and Counterpublics, Zone Books (New York), 2005, p 8. 5. One of the forefathers of urban design (town planning), Patrick Geddes pointed out a hundred years ago that the antagonism between city and country, wilderness or suburbia is no longer sustainable. Even contemporary urban historians and theorists such as Marcel Smets and Manfred Kühn still raise the need to overcome this dichotomy. 6. In current urban design practices, what most people (including architects and urban planners) would consider ‘good urban form’ is largely a convention based on the spatial and architectural qualities of historical models such as medieval town squares, Renaissance piazzas, 19th-century city boulevards and others. A common belief is that we have not created any good cities since the 19th century. The fact is that new forms of settlements have been created, or re-created, since, from the garden cities to new towns, suburbs, edge cities, sprawled cities, diffused cities and so on. These forms of dispersed settlements have now begun to be transformed into a new type of urbanism. 7. Many theorists and practitioners have studied the losses that have occurred during processes of dispersal, thereby offering new descriptive models that stress the lack of coherence, definition, limits. See, for example, Richard Ingersoll’s Sprawltown: Looking for the City on its Edges, Princeton Architectural Press (New York), 2006, and the ‘Shrinking Cities’ project – an ongoing exhibition and publications (2002–05) of the Federal Cultural Foundation, under the direction of Philipp Oswalt (Berlin) in cooperation with the Leipzig Gallery of Contemporary Art, the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation and the magazine archplus. 8. Mark Wigley, ‘Resisting the city’, in Joke Brouwer, Arjen Mulder and Laura Martz, TransUrbanism, NAI Publishers (Rotterdam), 2002, p 103. 9. ‘Shaping public space is considered the first order of urbanism by the architect/urbanist. Thus the primary role of urban design is to develop methods of doing so.’ Alex Krieger, ‘Territories of urban design’, in Malcolm Moor and Jon Rowland (eds), Urban Design Futures, Routledge (London and New York), 2006, p 22. 10. See Craig Calhoun (ed), Habermas and the Public Sphere, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA, and London), 1992, pp 1–48. See also Catherine Zuromskis, ‘Introduction’ in Invisible Culture: An Electronic Journal for Visual Culture, Issue 6, ‘Visual Publics, Visible Publics’, 2003 (www.rochester.edu/in_visible_culture/Issue_6/issue6title.html): ‘Our theoretical understanding of the public has changed since Jürgen Habermas introduced the high bourgeois public sphere (1962), the more recent work of Bruce Robbins, Nancy Fraser, Rosalyn Deutsche and Michael Warner present a less definable singular public sphere but rather a fragmentary interplay of multiple publics and counter publics.’
11. From Craig Calhoun, op cit, p 26. 12. The main argument presented by Margaret Kohn in Brave New Neighborhoods: The Privatization of Public Space, Routledge (New York and London), 2004. 13. From Margaret Kohn, op cit. 14.The layout of the parliament house, for example, as it emerged during the Enlightenment (discussed by Bruno Latour in Making Things Public), established an architectural expression to that period’s conception of political assembly. The parliament’s architecture, space and setting, made manifest a certain public-political activity. This same setting is still used today to represent the public (as a political body), even though the structure, function and spaces of political activity/debate have changed drastically. Latour’s examination of past notions of the public as a political body suggests that in our world, beyond the political, there are many other kinds of assemblies that gather a public around things: church, supermarket, disputes involving natural resources, and so on. Bruno Latour, ‘From Realpolitik to Dingpolitick or How to make things Public’, in Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel (eds), Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy, ZKM (Center for Art and Media), Karlsruhe, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA, and London), 2005, pp 14–44. 15. Graham Shane, Recombinant Urbanism: Conceptual Modeling in Architecture, Urban Design and City Theory, Wiley-Academy (Chichester), 2005. In Chapter 4, Shane extensively discusses definitions of heterotopias and their potential use in city modelling and urban design. 16. Supported by recent discussions held during the conference ‘Visionary Power: Producing the Contemporary City’ at the 3rd International Rotterdam Biennale. The concept of heterotopia, as understood by Lieven De Cauter and Michiel Dehaene, leads to a reading of the environment as made up of binary poles, centre and periphery, leaving no middle ground. From this point of view, existing spaces are reinterpreted as ‘heterotopian’, either belonging to conditions of ‘hyperarchitecture’ (of the sanctuary) or in opposition ‘infraarchitecture’ (of slums, camps, etc). 17. What is called empty should be understood in relative terms, specifying that of which it is vacant: vacant of buildings, vacant of activities, vacant of human presence. It is a search for the materialisation of this emptiness, or what Willem-Jan Neutelings calls the ‘density of the void’. Willem-Jan Neutelings, De Ringcultuur, Vlees en Beton Publishers (Ghent), 1988.
Text © 2008 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images: p 6(l) © Paolo Viganò; p 6(r) © Van Alen Institute, photo Jonathan Cohen Litant; p 7(l) © Macau Information Bureau; p 7(r) © Dominique Macel, Service du Communication de Saint Nazaire; p 8(l) © MUTOPIA ApS; p 8(r) © Jose Castillo Ólea, arquitectura 911sc; p 9(l) © Zvi Hecker; p 9(r) © Claudia Faraone and Andrea Sarti; p 10(l) © Kjersti Monson; p 10(r) © Els Verbakel, Elie Derman of Derman Verbakel Architecture and Ward Verbakel Architect; p 11(l) © Rafi Segal; p 11(r) © Martha Rosler
The Public and the V2 The London Blitz has come to epitomise the golden age of urban togetherness and bonhomie when the public was bound by a common enemy threat. Through his reading of Thomas Pynchonâ€™s Gravityâ€™s Rainbow, literary critic Bruce Robbins questions the archetypal view of the Second World War as a watershed after which the ideal intact city and its community were ultimately destroyed.
Listing agents of what he calls ‘the implosion of the urban core’, Albert Pope begins with Allied bombers and aggressive freeway engineers, and ends with ‘celebrated architects and the precise trajectory of the V2 rocket’.1 To a literary critic like myself, this pairing of architects and V2s as agents of radical transformation, and of both with the fate of the modern city, seems reasonable enough. What we literary critics tend to be less sure of is whether the urban core has indeed imploded – whether we have definitively lost the centrality and publicness that we have come to associate, rightly or wrongly, with the pre-implosion city. The V2 rocket is at the heart of Thomas Pynchon’s vision of the city in Gravity’s Rainbow, the greatest American novel of the past half-century. The tale begins with the sound of the V2 (‘A screaming comes across the sky’) and with two V2-related scenes.2 The first is a dream-like scene of Evacuation (the word is capitalised) that turns out to be, indeed, a dream. It throws the dreamer into a sudden intimacy with the poor, sharing with them both their vulnerability and their experience of London’s grimy, neglected infrastructure, the suddenly revealed urban space that the would-be evacuees must traverse. The second is a morning scene, also in London, in which a British officer wakes up after a wild party – it is he, apparently, who has been dreaming. He goes up to his roof garden to gather bananas for one of his famous Banana Breakfasts, and in the sky he sees, far off, the trail of another V2 on its way down. These are scenes of dispersal. As you begin to prepare your breakfast, the city in which you live is already the target of violence launched from overseas. The public is usually described, roughly speaking, as a sphere in which there can be common conversation, undisturbed by power differentials between the participants, about matters important to their common welfare. Violence, especially violence from a distance, thus seems its very antithesis.3 A public that would include those who launch the V2s as well as those on whom they come down is hard to imagine. By definition, the city at which the rockets are aimed cannot encompass so much; it will not qualify. Under the V2s city and publicness have come apart. And the city reacts, one might say, by emptying itself out. The Evacuation anticipates the rush to the suburbs after the Second World War during the precise years when Pynchon was writing. It is as if ordinary citizens felt that the public decisions arrived at in the metropolis had failed them, and had responded by fleeing towards suburban privacy. The explosions of the rockets and the ‘implosion of the urban core’ belong to the same story of what the novel will call ‘scattering’, a story we are accustomed to think of as the loss of community, the loss of centred public space. For a vigilant reader, however, these two scenes also contain clues that Pynchon may be trying to tell a very different kind of story. The miraculous bananas, for example: could they really grow in London, at least before global
warming? Bananas, like V2s, usually come from far away. If they are staples of the urban breakfast, then the city was already causally linked to faraway places before the rockets started falling. And if you inspect those faraway places, don’t you detect violence behind the process of production by which the bananas so reliably arrived? (Consider the massacre of striking banana plantation workers in Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude.) Isn’t it a good thing, in the dream sequence, that the dreaming evacuee encounters the truth of London’s infrastructure, its ‘secret entrances of rotted concrete’ and ‘trestles of blackened wood’, its places ‘whose names he has never heard …’?4 And his emphatic rubbing-ofelbows with the poor in the Evacuation: doesn’t this seem less like a loss of the public and more like a move in the direction of a more strenuously inclusive, more properly democratic public? At the end of the novel, when the protagonist is ‘scattered’,5 no longer visible ‘as any sort of integral creature’,6 the reader is left wondering how much this ought to count as a failure and how much it might on the contrary satisfy a desire. Perhaps the disappearance of the privileged American individual he once was makes it possible for him to represent a threateningly dispersed but nonetheless ethically desirable inclusiveness. From one perspective, Gravity’s Rainbow might be described as an attempt to model the public – a radically and necessarily more comprehensive public – under stressful contemporary circumstances. The novel will reveal that the site of each V2 explosion, marked with a pin on a London city map and dated, corresponds in time as well as space with a map of the protagonist’s sexual encounters (hence the phallic rhyme between rocket and banana). A pattern can be detected behind what would otherwise appear to be random dispersiveness – the dispersiveness of rocketry, of desire, and of the city-destroying force we have come to call globalisation. In pursuit of this pattern, the novel will send its protagonist abroad, seeking the mysterious connection between the rockets and his sexuality. Indeed, it will devote many of its pages to those who develop and launch the rocket, thereby drawing together figures who did not seem capable of inhabiting one single story, one single conversation. This new story occupies a different, transnational geography – what Pynchon names ‘the Zone’. And the interrelations of its multinational cast continue uninterrupted after the Second World War is over. If this is something less than a full blueprint of a transnational public sphere, it is certainly a critique of the earlier notion of the public, which complacently or nostalgically assumed that the public was something that did its job and was ours to lose – in other words, that before the era of rockets, bananas and suburbs we were already firmly in possession of it. The phrase ‘dispersed urbanism’ has a no doubt calculated ambiguity. Has urbanism been dispersed, hence destroyed,
Defusing a Nazi bomb, London, 1940.
An aerial view of an area of London that suffered heavy bombing, c 1940.
leaving behind something that is not urban? Or is there a version of urbanism that persists, however paradoxically, as urbanism, an urbanism that somehow takes a dispersed form? These are questions that Pynchon also addresses. And they are questions that are inherent in the very definition of the public. If the public is what pertains to the social whole, as we sometimes say, what exactly do we mean by ‘pertain’? Some very diverse things. We might say something public is ‘potentially accessible’ to the community. Or we might say it is ‘already visible to’ and ‘viewed by’ the community. Or we might say it is that which ‘belongs to’ and/or ‘is controlled by’ the community. Or we might say it is that which ‘affects’ or is ‘of significance to’ the community. Or that which is ‘authorised by’ the community. Or that which is done ‘in the service or on behalf of’ the community. Each option overlaps to some degree with the others, but each also leads to a different moral appeal and a different mode of action. Some of the term’s power lies in the confusions it makes possible between these different options. By switching, for example, between 1) the public as what is owned, decided upon, and managed by the community, and 2) the public as what is merely observed by and relevant to the community – that is, between the public as active participant (modelled on the organised political group) and the public as passive spectator (modelled on theatrical audience and reading public) – the word can imply that the active, participatory aspects of
politics are present within the more passive, aestheticised context of spectatorship. This switch encourages a tendency to inflate the degree and significance of agency available in the act of cultural consumption – the suggestion, say, that shopping and striking are comparable practices. Yet this ambiguity also raises such productive questions as how distinct the two sorts of publicness are and what role theatricality and symbolism can play within politics. The same ambiguity drives media research into how, when and whether what is public in the minimal sense of ‘visibility’ (celebrity, publicity) translates into what is public in a weightier sense like ‘sociability’ or ‘organised political will’. For urban planners, the key question is perhaps whether the urban has been superseded by the digital; in the words of Manuel Castells, whether ‘public space’ has come to be defined as ‘the space of communication’.7 Or must successful political action eventually move out of the digital and back into physical space, where access to infrastructure, commuting time and the cost of fossil fuels matter? This is related to the ever more interesting issue of the public’s ‘scale’. The word public has been most frequently used about collectivities, like the city, up to but not exceeding the scale of the nation. This fits its association with zones of actual conversation and self-consciously shared destiny, which have historically been limited. On the other hand, the concept of the public as a zone of causal
London’s Smithfield Market damaged by enemy action, c 1941.
connectedness – those actions relevant to, or significant for, the welfare of a given group, whether or not the group is in conversation with itself or with the begetters of the actions – is much vaster. In the era of the world market, not to speak of official and unofficial violence across borders, this zone has become increasingly international. Thus the restrictively national scale of the public (in the sense of conversation and control) is seen to be stretching, and/or to need stretching. Enlarging the scale of international attention, conversation and opinion so as to match the scale of international causal connectedness – that is, bringing these two senses of the public into congruence with each other – means resetting the boundaries of the relevant moral community so that those likely to be affected by a course of action, wherever they live, are included in those invited to debate it. Among other things, this is a question, to quote an article in Latour and Weibel’s Making Things Public, of ‘the spatial grammar of the politics of who votes where’.8 ‘Where you vote counts unequally in its effects. An American vote counts for far more than votes in other parts of the world because it comes backed up by structures of enforcement that can project it into the world … Remember that the course of a large part of the world hung on a small number of hanging chads and on the fact that only 51 percent of the American electorate voted in the 2000 presidential election. Perhaps we should all be able to vote
in the US elections! We should certainly consider the possibility of allowing residents in one part of the world to exercise their citizenship rights in another part of the world over common planetary issues, through some form of coupon democracy or world parliament.’9 Or, to put this differently: ‘The notion of an unbound site prompts designers to consider not simply the territory under their direct control, but the more expansive physical, social and temporal arenas impacted by their actions.’10 As a literary critic, I will not presume to say what it might mean to architects and urban designers to think of the public less as a default setting or an inheritance, already functional and always in danger of being lost, than as a sort of miracle, always in need of enlargement, always needing to be reimagined creatively. What criteria would have to be satisfied? The city’s degree of openness to strangers is something planners are already thinking about, and necessarily so. It seems to me that the city’s vulnerability to rockets must be added, but only if there is some way of alluding architecturally to the city not just as victim, but also as source of violence, including the rockets it sends out, so to speak, as well as the everyday violence of imported fruit. The novel has had to stretch to find a way to make these distant relations of force part of its form, a form that is much more comfortable following the fate of a handful of private individuals. Most novels don’t manage to be public in the strongest sense. It’s always a stretch. 4 Notes 1. Albert Pope, Ladders, Rice University School of Architecture (Houston), 1996, p 102. 2. Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow, Penguin (New York), 1973. 3. Mike Hill and Warren Montag, ‘What was, what is, the public sphere? PostCold War reflections’, Masses, Classes, and the Public Sphere, Verso (London), 2000. ‘Absolutely central to the notion of the public sphere in all its versions,’ Hill and Montag write, ‘is the opposition between reason and force’ (p 6). They trace the logic by which this conceptual suppression of force leads Jürgen Habermas, for example, to identify the enemies of the public sphere as those who use force, mainly outside the NATO countries, and thus to support ‘defending them with force’ (p 7), including ‘the massive prolonged war against Iraq’ (p 7) – at that time still merely a reference to the violence of sanctions. 4. Pynchon, op cit, p 3. 5. Pynchon, op cit, p 738. 6. Pynchon, op cit, p 740. 7. Manuel Castells, ‘Communication, power and counter-power in the network society’, International Journal of Communication 1, 2007, pp 238–66. Thanks to Noah Brick for the reference. 8. Ash Amin, Nigel Thrift, Helen Baker and Doreen Massey, ‘Centers don’t have to be points: Political influence of US Republican Party overseas’, in Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel (eds), Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA) and ZKM (Center for Art and Media), Karlsruhe, 2005, p 811. 9. Ibid. 10. Andrea Kahn, ‘The project of urban design’, in Andrea Kahn, Charlie Cannon, Phu Duong and Els Verbakel (eds), Constellations: Constructing Urban Design Practices, Columbia University Urban Design Program (New York), 2007.
Text © 2008 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images: pp 12 & 13 © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS ca. September 1940, London, England, UK; p 15 © CORBIS ca. 1941, London, England
Terminal Distribution Could the late 20th-century rejection of Modernist planning, and along with it the notion of a ‘universal subject’, mean that urban designers and architects might have lost sight of who they are designing cities for? Albert Pope sets out on a search to define the contemporary ‘who’ and finds some answers in Michel Foucault’s notion of the historically grounded subject.
Subjectivity It has long been argued that society constructs individuals. Simply stated, we construct the world and the world constructs us. The study of ‘subjectivity’ attempts to understand how society constructs individuals by analysing the individual itself. In the language of the human sciences, this individual is referred to as the social ‘subject’. When the study of the subject is extended to the study of cities, it becomes clear that the unique environment of cities constructs unique individuals. From this perspective we can easily see how individuals in medieval cities would be constructed in an entirely different way than the individuals in industrial cities. Moving forward, we can apply the analysis of subjectivity to modern urbanism, specifically the Radiant City urbanism that emerged in the 1920s and was codified in the 1930s and exported worldwide following the Second World War. Like all cities before it, the Radiant City was imagined to create a unique subject. This subject – the ‘universal’ subject of Modern architecture and urbanism – was a subject like no other. In the 1920s, the advocates of Modern urbanism saw technical, economic and political change of such magnitude as to require the reorganisation of the city at an existential level. Out of this reorganisation, it was imagined that an entirely new mode of subjectivity would emerge. This led to the notion that the urban subject could be both anticipated and designed for. In other words, the constituent of the modern city did not yet exist, but it would be the ultimate result of its construction. This anticipation of a truly universal subject was hardly defensible, and the early 1970s critique of it was definitive. Such a subject did not, and could not, exist but as a figment of a utopian imagination. With 50 years’ hindsight, the universal subject was seen as an agent for the emergence of a brutal and oppressive mode of urbanisation.1 It is safe to argue that the universal subject of modern urbanism was a naive attempt to establish an unknown and unrecognisable subject against all subjectivities that came before. This naivety regarding an urban subject was largely overcome through the writing of French historian Michel Foucault. In the mid-1970s, Foucault redefined subjectivity around two key innovations: that the subject was both historically grounded and socially individuated.2 The
implication of a historical, individuated subject on the discourse of architecture and urbanism should have been significant, for it answered much of the critique that modern urbanism was undergoing at virtually the same time. The Postmodern critique, however, became a polemic, condemning not only the universal subject, but the notion of projecting subjectivity altogether. It can be argued that the problem of Radiant City urbanism was not that it projected subjectivity, but that it projected subjectivity devoid of recognisable features. Over the past 30 years, this outright rejection of subjectivity has had drastic consequences that can be summed up in a few simple questions that are rarely asked and almost never answered, even today. Who, exactly, is the subject of contemporary architectural and urban design? Who are our discourses (such as this one) targeting? For whom do we presume to speak? Given that subjectivities are the inevitable outcome of historical forces, what is the role of urban form in their construction? Ever since Foucault’s cogent argument, the prospect of a modern universal subject has been substantially diminished, but the question of ‘who’ nonetheless remains. It is clear that Foucault’s conception of a historically grounded subject could help answer the contemporary question of ‘who?’. His conception of an individuated subject, on the other hand, was far more problematic. If architects and theoreticians conceive of the subject at all, they usually conceive of it in collectivist terms. This devotion to the collective subject is nearly second nature, and it has all but eliminated any obvious alternatives. It is generally understood that urban spaces such as the agora, the parvis, the royal square and the village green all created the constituencies they contained. These constituencies and others continue to exist in enduring urban form to this day. And while more recent examples of collective subjectivity exist – ‘the people’, the working class or mass society, to begin the list – they are rarely associated with contemporary urban form. For a whole host of reasons we are unable to account for a collective subject in the practice and discourse of contemporary urbanism leading us to further discount the projection of subjectivity. This begs the question of whether Foucault’s analysis of an individuated subject might point the way to an alternative subject position. It will be the contention here that individuated subjectivity is more
relevant to contemporary urban form – specifically infrastructural form – than its collective counterpart. The substitution of the universal subject for a historical, individuated subject and the encoding of that subject in the concrete form of the city will be the primary objective of the text that follows. This development animates the evolution of recent urban history as the emphasis of forms has shifted from a validation of the collective to a validation of an individuated subject. Infrastructure Subjectivities are found encoded at all levels of the built environment. Foucault found them encoded in various institutions such as prisons, asylums, schools and factories. And while he rarely speculated on an urban scale, it is nevertheless true that powerful subjectivities are encoded, not only at the level of individual building, but also at the base level of urban organisation. I am referring to the subjectivities constructed by street infrastructure. By street infrastructure I mean the layout of water and sewage lines, electrical and communications grids, pedestrian walks,
Diagram 1 The first pattern is that of the urban gridiron. Up until the 1950s, the gridiron street structured a century and a half of American and European urbanism. Through its many variations, the gridiron form supported multiple subjectivities, both individual and collective. In this regard, its negotiation of the social is extremely clear, especially in the case of the early 20th-century metropolis. This diagram shows, in basic geometry, how collective subjectivities are supported by the gridiron infrastructure. The large circles suggest social groupings of various sorts and sizes. What is unique about the gridiron infrastructure is that the social groupings can be moved and sized independent of the forms that support them. The circles can indicate ethnic enclaves such as a Chinatown or a Little Italy, or indicate a district identified with a distinctive urban feature such as Marquette Park, a district in Chicago, or the Flatiron district in Manhattan. They can also indicate areas of development distinguished by density, such as Midtown Manhattan or the Mid-Wiltshire district of Los Angeles, or be a direct reflection of class such as the colloquial expression ‘uptown’. The circles can also recognise fluid political constituencies such as the old ward system or today’s narrowly focused special interest groups. With the gridiron, all of these subjectivities are negotiated and renegotiated unhindered by an open and continuous urban matrix. It is important to note that in the gridiron city, as in the mass society, there is no hierarchy, or there is only a simple two-level hierarchy of STREET/DESTINATION.
drainage capacity, along with unpaved or paved roadbeds. While largely a matter of civil engineering, the significance of street infrastructure goes far beyond its technical specification. I would like to argue here that street infrastructure – both historical and contemporary – embeds social organisation at the deepest levels of urban existence. Infrastructure provides the baseline to the elaborate choreography of social organisation, whether it be the convergence, for example, of a large group of people upon a stadium or the retreat of a far-flung commuter. There is, in other words, a fundamental relation between infrastructural form and the construction of urban subjectivities. It is, at first, counterintuitive to imagine that street infrastructure would have an equal or greater impact on subjectivities than those buildings that take social organisation as their aim (prisons, factories, schools). This difficulty in understanding, however, demonstrates what is perhaps infrastructure’s greatest strength, its ‘subliminal ubiquity’. Infrastructure is literally everywhere. It exists all around us, even where you are right now. You can see it when you sit at your desk, look out of your window and when you watch television. You feel it when you go to work, or go to church, or go to school. Urban infrastructure is there every time you walk out of the door. It operates, without effort, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Infrastructure cannot be put down like a newspaper or a book, shut off like a computer or radio, or walked out of like a film or a building. It determines whether you walk fast or slow, left or right, up or down. It determines, actually, whether you walk at all. Infrastructure is a more potent means of encoding social organisation precisely because it operates subliminally. As opposed to a work of architecture, infrastructure leaves us largely unaware of the mechanisms of social organisation that surround and define it. It allows us the very necessary fiction of unfettered agency that most modern societies require. Because infrastructure is everywhere, we take it for granted, and because we take it for granted we fail to acknowledge its importance in the constitution of the lived world. This is unfortunate because urban infrastructure has undergone a dramatic transformation over the past halfcentury. A major shift from open, gridiron cities to closed, cul-de-sac cities has irreversibly changed the course of urbanisation.3 Because this change is so recent, and so profound, it is especially illuminating with regard to the relation between infrastructural form and social organisation. This radical shift in form begs the question of whether social imperatives gave rise to form, or whether formal transformation brought about profound social change. In either case, we are situated at the nexus of a social and formal negotiation. Three Stages What follows are the diagrammatic descriptions of the three infrastructural configurations that marked the transformation of infrastructure in the 20th-century city (see
Diagram 2 The second, intermediate pattern is that of the superblock. Gridiron construction effectively came to an end in the period following the Second World War. What succeeded the gridiron was the superblock. A superblock is an increase in the unit of urban aggregation beyond the characteristic of a conventional city block. This significant increase in economic, demographic or territorial dimension represents not only a change in size, but also a change in kind. This change in kind dramatically affects the subjectivities of the gridiron. The exact same circles representing social groupings can be drawn as they were in the previous diagram, but unlike the gridiron infrastructure, the groupings cannot be moved or resized independent of the superblock infrastructure that creates them. The circles still indicate a number of collective subjectivities such as formed by political or ethnic identities, and they can still indicate a district identified with a distinctive urban or natural feature. The subjectivities of the superblock correspond precisely to the infrastructural form so that a ‘lock’ between programmme and structure is created. Besides being locked into the infrastructure, these subjectivities can also be more easily isolated as a result of a defined perimeter and the reduced number of entrances and exits that typically occur in superblock development. In other words, the same groups can be formed, but the dynamic between them is utterly changed. Superblocks are the organisational unit of such well-known projects as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Broadacre City and Llewelyn-Davies’ Milton Keynes. They are also characteristic of the immediate postwar subdivision in North America. The superblock encodes another level of hierarchy within the urban infrastructure. With the addition of the access road, the superblock shows a third level of hierarchy non-existent in the gridiron. This three-level hierarchy can be expressed as BOULEVARD/STREET/DESTINATION.
Diagrams 1–3). The three stages – gridiron, superblock and cul-de-sac – reveal a change in the interaction between infrastructural form and social organisation. The diagrams are arranged in a split-screen format that directly juxtaposes the formal and the social. The line patterns on the left-hand side represent the planimetric base form of the infrastructure. The diagrams on the right-hand side represent the familiar icons of statistical analysis. Such figures often depict the quantities of a statistical sampling representing 1X, 10X, 100X and so on. This is the case here. But it is also the case that the figures suggest a specific place, as if it were a literal image of a large number of people occupying a space and time such as Times Square on New Year’s Eve. What this three-stage transformation reveals is a progressive fragmentation that continues to the point at which the part is isolated from the whole and the whole is lost to cognitive awareness. One of the most important characteristics of gridiron urbanism was that it allowed
various subgroupings to be taken as a single, undifferentiated, non-hierarchical mass. It is not a coincidence that the gridiron underlies the most celebrated form of 20th-century urbanism – the metropolis. The ability for the gridiron to encompass the whole is what allows it to support the metropolis’ most characteristic subjectivity: an industrialised mass society. This subjectivity was encoded directly in the urban infrastructure, specifically in the open and infinitely extensible gridiron street. In other words, a mass society was as open and infinitely extensible as the street infrastructure that supported it.4 The systematic disassembly of a mass society by the consumer economy is nowhere more evident than in the recent transformations of infrastructural form. These transformations will be referred to as a process of ‘individuation’. Itineraries It is apparent from the first three diagrams that the relation between the social and the formal is far more than utilitarian, especially in a time of dramatic urban change. The correlation between social organisation and infrastructure is apparent in
Diagram 3 The third and terminal stage in the transformation of 20th-century urban infrastructure can be seen in the emergence of a cul-de-sac organisation. This stage can be seen as an important refinement of the superblock from an isolated gridded organisation into what can be more strictly defined as a spine. This spine emerges through two important transformations in street organisation: the elimination of the cross-axial field of gridiron organisation and the emergence of a ‘terminal node’, or dead-end street. The principal example of cul-de-sac organisation comes from the large planning projects of Mies van der Rohe and Ludwig Hilberseimer. Lafayette Park in Detroit stands out as the primary example among many similar unrealised schemes. Cul-desac organisation is also characteristic of the majority of contemporary North American subdivisions as well as European and Asian New Towns. The elimination of the cross-axial field brings additional levels of hierarchy to street infrastructure. With the introduction of urban motorways into areas of new urban construction, subdivision and classification come into their own. The advent of the freeway and feeder road bring a fifth and sixth level of hierarchy into play, as follows: FREEWAY/FEEDER/BOULEVARD/SPINE/STREET/DESTINATION. Through these levels of hierarchy, the broad range of social grouping allowed by the flexible infrastructure of the previous diagrams is diminished. For the first time, a completely individuated subjectivity comes into view.
the historically specific subjectivities that rose and fell throughout the 20th century. It is clear that changes in form affected the dynamics between these subjectivities, including the ability to isolate and control them as well as the ability to understand them as a whole. These observations in themselves may be sufficient to theorise a relation between social life and urban form, yet there is something banal (read behavioural) in the equation of social organisation to a circle. Planimetric circles limit us to mapping the social as a group. Furthermore, they privilege collective subjectivities as opposed to individuated subjectivities that are more characteristic of contemporary cities. It is important to remember that the organisational logic of any given urban system is not identical to the logic of form. What this means is that the analysis of form alone does not yield the decisive characteristics of urban organisation. This is made clear in the next pair of diagrams that trace habitual paths of movement, or â€˜itinerariesâ€™. Itineraries are sketched on top of the infrastructure diagrams and are often at variance with the forms that support them. We can proceed with a mapping of itineraries by locating six destinations marked by the small circles on the diagram (see Diagram 4). These small circles represent individual destinations rather than the large circles that represented social groups. With regard to gridiron urbanism there exists a near-infinite number of paths that connect any of the six destinations. If each destination represents home, office, school, market, then the daily routines that connect them are almost infinitely variable. This diagram of gridiron itineraries is meant to contrast with the itineraries generated by the cul-de-sac. To this end, the same six destinations are drawn on top of the cul-de-sac infrastructure. As opposed to the infinite number of routes or circuits created between the six locations on the grid, the cul-de-sac drastically reduces the connections between the six centres. Any connecting path must move several levels back up the hierarchy, often returning to a primary axis (such as an urban freeway) of organisation before descending again to one of the specific locations. Unlike the infinite number of itineraries between all possible points on the grid, the points on the closed system allow only a single connection between any two points. This drastic reduction of choice from near infinity to one is not revealed by the direct juxtaposition of the circle and the grid. As a diagramming technique, the itinerary is interesting because it lies between the social entities and the formal infrastructure, eliminating the direct (deterministic) correspondence and potentially tying the two together. Once again it is clear that the relation of social organisation to urban infrastructure far surpasses functional considerations. The increasing isolation of the cul-de-sac destination due to the systematic elimination of connecting paths is clearly revealed by the itinerary. Here the drastic elimination of choice is so severe that it is in danger of cutting the analysis short. Putting judgement aside, temporarily, and focusing on the analysis at hand, we realise
that the difference being marked is between urban systems that are open and urban systems that are closed. Open urban systems are made up of networks characterised by circuits, loops and nodes of continuation. Closed urban systems, on the other hand, are made up of networks characterised by hubs, spokes and nodes of termination. The difference between the nodes of continuation that characterise open urban systems, and nodes of termination that characterise closed urban systems, cannot be overstated. What is important to remember is that these network nodes form utterly opposed subject positions. Nodes of termination forge a highly individuated subject position encoded at the ubiquitous level of urban infrastructure. Individuation While the integration or separation of social entities is important to the working of a city, it is not the only effect of infrastructure. It is possible to take the analysis of itineraries one step further in order to understand these patterns of movement beyond their already significant implications. It is possible to push this analysis into the existential realities that are the result of the ubiquitous nature of urban infrastructure. In other words, the impact of urban form
Diagram 4 This pair of diagrams traces the paths of individual movement on top of the infrastructure diagrams. The patterns generated by these paths are often at variance with the forms that support them. In this diagram, six locations are marked by the small circles. These circles represent individual destinations rather than the large circles in the preceding diagrams that represented social groups. The left-hand diagram shows that in gridiron urbanism there exists a near-infinite number of paths that connect any of the six destinations. If each destination represents home, office, school, market, then the daily routines that connect them are almost infinitely variable. The diagram of gridiron itineraries on the left is meant to contrast with the itineraries generated by the cul-de-sac shown on the right. On the right-hand side, the same six destinations are drawn on top of the cul-de-sac infrastructure. As opposed to the infinite number of routes or circuits created between the six locations on the grid, the cul-de-sac drastically reduces the connections between the six destinations. Any connecting path must move several levels back up the hierarchy, often returning to a primary axis of organisation before descending again to one of the specific locations. Unlike the infinite number of itineraries between all possible points on the grid, the points on the closed system allow only a single connection between any two points. This drastic reduction of choice from near infinity to one, more accurately depicts the contrast between the open, gridiron and closed cul-de-sac organisation.
extends beyond the issue of interconnected parts to the construction of subjectivity at an existential level. In order to extend the analysis, it is important to understand how discrete locations are established in the extended urban field of the cul-de-sac city. As mentioned, culde-sac cities are made up of networks characterised by nodes of termination. Terminal nodes are unlike the nodes of continuation that characterise gridiron urbanism. The path to a specific place in the cul-de-sac city will always terminate in an exclusive destination or endpoint (see Diagram 5), The path on the open grid, on the other hand, will never terminate because the gridiron is infinite in all directions. As opposed to the cul-de-sac’s termination of movement, the grid offers only a series of arbitrary stopping points often described as coordinates in space: for example, 239 East 339th Street. The organisational logic of a grid produces points that are connected by an infinite number of circuits or loops. The organisational logic of a cul-de-sac produces, on the contrary, a distribution of terminals or terminal distribution. The ability of the cul-de-sac city to establish fixed endpoints has significant implications for urban subjectivity. This is best revealed in another itinerary diagram. In the cul-de-sac city, the pattern of movement through urban space traces the figure of a discrete SPIRAL through a succession of the overlaid structural hierarchies described above. This path might begin on a primary urban freeway and from there turn inwards towards a singularly defined place. This in-turning spiralling path – from freeway to feeder to collector to development spine to driveway – forms the trajectory of a closed urban system. Turning inwards on itself, the path configures a series of discrete segments each more exclusive than the last. Everyone now lives not on an anonymous grid coordinate, but at the end of a particular path, on the last driveway, on the last cul-de-sac, in a city whose overall form is unknowable. In the cul-de-sac city we are right where we have always wanted to be, at the very origin of the spiral, each of our delicate egos seated at the base of a terminal destination. This spiralling inwards constitutes the mechanism of individuation that creates the existential reality that lies behind the nodes of termination. The manner in which the cul-de-sac city defines a destination speaks volumes for the magnitude of change seen in urban infrastructure over the past century. This is not, however, so much a change in urban form as it is a change in urban subjectivity. Viewed from this perspective, there can be no greater contrast between the collective subjects the gridiron street produces and the individuated subjects the culde-sac produces. I would argue that the gridiron did ultimately sustain a collective subject even if that subject was defined as an undifferentiated mass society. In the cul-de-sac city, this mode of subjectivity is no longer possible. The cul-desac city privileges individuated subjects at the expense of any massification or incorporation. This is its historical uniqueness as it is the historical uniqueness of the city in our time. Whatever characteristics of gridiron urbanism we may
Diagram 5 This diagram maps the logic of the terminal node in cul-de-sac urbanism. The path to a specific place in the cul-de-sac city will always terminate in an exclusive destination or endpoint. The path on the open grid, on the other hand, will never terminate because the gridiron is infinite in all directions. As opposed to the cul-de-sac’s termination of movement, the grid offers only a series of arbitrary stopping points often described as coordinates in space: for example, 239 East 339th Street. The organisational logic of a grid produces points that are connected by an infinite number of circuits or loops. The organisational logic of a cul-de-sac produces, on the contrary, a distribution of terminals or terminal distribution. In the cul-de-sac city, the pattern of movement through urban space traces the figure of a discrete SPIRAL through a succession of the overlaid structural hierarchies described above. This path might begin on a primary urban freeway and from there turn inwards towards a singularly defined place. This in-turning spiralling path — from freeway to feeder to collector to development spine to driveway — forms the trajectory of a closed urban system. Turning inwards on itself, the path configures a series of discrete segments each more exclusive than the last. Everyone now lives not on an anonymous grid coordinate, but at the end of a particular path, on the last driveway, on the last cul-de-sac, in a city whose overall form is unknowable. In the cul-de-sac city we are right where we have always wanted to be, at the very origin of the spiral, each of our delicate egos seated at the base of a terminal destination. This spiralling inwards constitutes the existential reality of terminal nodes.
admire, or even prefer, we are not able to ignore the fact that gridiron urbanism cannot support the individuated subjectivities that are prevalent today. More important, perhaps, is the need to update the Modernist conception of the ‘universal subject’, bringing to modern urbanism a workable alternative. This is to say, finally and without equivocation, that urban form is historically unique as are the subjects it produces. At this juncture it is possible to provide a tentative answer to the question of ‘who’. Who, exactly, is the subject of architectural and urban design? For whom do we presume to speak? A first, tentative answer to that question is that we speak for the highly individuated subject of the contemporary city. While such an answer is certainly not definitive, nor does it suggest that individuation is an inevitable or even a desirable outcome, it does provide a less-than-arbitrary starting point for continued analysis.
In a short text dating from 1972, Foucault made the following remark about the construction of an individuated subjectivity. He wrote: ‘Do not demand of politics that it restore the “rights” of the individual, as philosophy has defined them. The individual is the product of power. What is needed is to “deindividualize” by means of multiplication and displacement, diverse combinations. The group must not be the organic bond uniting hierarchized individuals, but a constant generator of de-individualization.’ (author’s italics).5 Seldom do we question the fundamental value of the individual. It is as if our liberal heritage safeguarded the existence of our humanity in a world defined by the encroachment of mass society. It has been suggested that the liberal conception of the individual is as dated as the conception of mass society itself and that, today, it may be the case that individuality or ‘difference’ constitutes as much a threat to our humanity as it does to its safeguard.6 This unique understanding comes to us as designers who recognise the concealed logic of urban infrastructures and how it may unwittingly block or accelerate the development of the social. 4 Notes 1. On the critique of the universal subject, Manfredo Tafuri argued that the effect of modern urbanism was not to reinvent the subject, but to eliminate it. He wrote that: ‘The problem was to plan the disappearance of the subject, to cancel the anguish caused by the pathetic (or ridiculous) resistance of the individual to the structures of domination that close in upon him, to indicate the voluntary and docile submission to those structures of domination as the promised land of universal planning.’ Manfredo Tafuri, Architecture and Utopia, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 1976, p 73. 2. Foucault’s reinvention of the subject can be broken down into two distinct features – historicising the subject and individuating it. The first pursued an understanding of subjectivity as a historical phenomenon. Before Foucault, the social was defined in ‘essentialist’ terms. What this means is that the social had been interpreted as the ‘essence’ of community or the ‘essence’ of humanity that was distilled down through the ages into an idealised subject position that transcended its many historical manifestations. In architecture, this essentialist subject was most often referred to as a modern, ‘universal’ subject, a position that is still promoted (however unwittingly) today. Foucault undermined all such essential positions through a detailed study of the historic record, and put into its place a subject that was historically defined. The second way in which Foucault reinterpreted the social was to shift the emphasis from an incorporated or collective subject to an individual one. Traditionally, the historical study of an individual subject was limited to the reign of a king or another such significant person and would ultimately constitute the ‘great man’ theory of history. Like these historians, Foucault focused on an individual subject. Instead of writing the history of kings and generals, however, he studied the factory worker, lunatic, the schoolchild, or the prisoner and the so-called ‘disciplinary regimes’ that made them exactly what they were. In other words, these subjectivities were socially constructed by specific disciplinary regimes that constituted and regulated society (by targeting individuals) on a one-by-one basis. His celebrated study of the penitent criminal in Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon is the premier example of Foucault’s focus on these individuated disciplinary regimes. 3. Street infrastructure is one of the oldest and best demonstrations of the autonomous evolution of urban form. By autonomous form is meant form that follows prior form in succession over time, ultimately creating a stable typology. The grid form typical of street infrastructure has existed since antiquity. It has evolved since that time through numerous variations in pattern including regular and irregular syncopation, larger- and smaller-scaled spacings, orthogonal and curvilinear geometries, but the logic of the grid form has endured. This autonomous evolution was abruptly terminated following the Second World War when the gridiron form of the Western city was eclipsed by a new pattern of organisation. Since the late 1940s, no gridiron
street infrastructures have been produced in the American city. Instead, closed, cul-de-sac organisation has dominated urban development, creating a decisive transformation in what we understand to be street infrastructure. I have argued elsewhere that the cul-de-sac is not a further evolution of the ancient grid typology, but a rupture of that typology that brings entirely new qualities into the urban environment, positive and negative. And while the typology is ruptured, it is not the case that the infrastructure has become, again, merely a technical or functional matter. 4. In the 19th century, collective subjectivity was not established by the urban plaza or square, for the mass would always exceed its fixed boundaries. Collective subjectivity (political identity) was constructed by the open street. It then follows that the gridiron infrastructure was characterised by a distinctive feature of mass society: the ability to grow without boundary. 5. Foucault, preface to Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis), 1983, p xiv. This quotation does a lot in four sentences. It offers two opposing types of ‘individuals’. The first type is one that Foucault claims to be the product of power. The implication is that power produces a ‘hierarchised’ individual that is ‘organically’ bonded into the unity of a larger group. The six-level hierarchy – FREEWAY/FEEDER/BOULEVARD/SPINE/STREET/DESTINATION – revealed in Diagram 3 allows us to readily identify this type of individual. Against this hierarchised, or ranked, individual, a second type of unranked, non-hierarchised individual is offered by Foucault. This second type of individual is ‘deindividualised’ by a process that actively undermines the organic bond that traditionally ties it to a larger group dynamic. This process is accomplished ‘by means of multiplication and displacement’ and by replacing the organic unity of assimilated individuals with ‘diverse combinations’. The individual is therefore not seen as something that is ‘restored’ with reference to a series of ‘essential’ (philosophically defined) rights. It is instead seen to be constructed by the multiplication and displacement of itself. Such specific procedures suggest not the shoring up of an essential integrity, but an individuation that is accomplished by a multiplication of individuality – a hyper-individuation. In this regard, the group becomes not a hierarchical encoding of individuals, but a ‘constant generator’ of multiplicity, and this multiplicity produces a kind of unranked individual that is not subject to the type of disciplinary technologies that Foucault’s work reveals. Following Foucault, we can thus identify a process called ‘deindividuation’ that is the means by which an individual that is ranked into a unitary hierarchy is unranked into a form of organisation that can be described not as a group or a mass, but as a multiplicity. This multiplicity shares a striking resemblance to a new form of global political subjectivity that has been defined by a number of political philosophers as the ‘multitude’. 6. The individuation of urban infrastructure follows the decline of the welfare state and global embrace of neo-liberal economic policies. While the link between neo-liberalism and individuated subjectivity seems reasonably clear, what is less clear is the specific constitution of a global subjectivity that may ultimately emerge from this condition. This situation raises the stakes on the question of ‘who’ our discourses presume. Recently, political theorists have invented a placeholder for the emerging global subject called ‘multitude’. By all accounts, and there are many, the multitude is highly individuated.
Text © 2008 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images © Albert Pope
Public Lifestyle in the Low-Density City Much maligned, shopping centres have come to represent many of the negative aspects of low-density areas. They are all too often associated with high car dependency and a paucity of cultural and public amenities. Alex Wall questions this preconception. Could the well-conceived and designed shopping centre actually prove to be urban sprawl’s redemption?
The Idea of Centre in Low-Density Urbanism For some decades now, the low-density city has been the predominant urban form in North America and western Europe. Sometimes it replicates or reinterprets aspects of the traditional city; otherwise it develops new forms of cityscape and landscape to suit the needs and desires of its builders, developers and inhabitants. Its spaces are a function of mobility and access. The low-density city is best understood as a process of urbanisation, yet the expressions ‘urban’ and ‘urbanism’ seem inappropriate. This is not because it is not urban, but rather because it has not yet found its own urban design practice. For traditional urbanists, the diffuse nature of the low-density city is a threat to the specificity of the historic urban cores. There are three additional irritants: the lowdensity city does not seem to have a proper centre; it is a milieu served primarily by the private automobile; and it seems to represent a lifestyle devoted to consumption.
The regional shopping centre epitomises all of these questions, yet it was the first postwar building type to effectively manage the flows of cars and trucks, thus creating the basis for comfortable, safe and clean outdoor pedestrian spaces that attracted many thousands of people. In its latest manifestation as a ‘lifestyle shopping centre’, the same questions asked 50 years ago still apply: What is the role of the public spaces of shopping centres, and what kind of urbanity do they represent? Can retail, in combination with other functions, create a central place in the low-density city? This articles seeks to address these issues by focusing on the role and potential of the shopping centre in the consolidation of the low-density city. It starts by looking back at the nascent American suburbs where the regional shopping centre first made its claims for centrality, then moves to middle Europe where two current projects in Switzerland are using a synthesis of ‘branded urban district’ and intensively
public and private initiative and responsibility may be changing again. In the European and Southeast Asian examples illustrated below, there are indications that a new model of participation between private, public and community actors is emerging. It is an optimistic thesis yet a necessary question: Can private development take responsibility for the public realm, and can it bring to market an equitable balance of housing? Architekt Daniel Libeskind AG, Masterplan, Westside, Berne, Switzerland, due for completion 2008 Superposition of regional centre and highway space. View from the highway showing the fractal public spaces piercing the shopping centre envelope.
choreographed urban public space as a mechanism for restructuring the city region. Finally, it assesses the potential of a specific phenomenon in the Southeast Asian city of Jakarta: shopping centre clusters as initiators of public space, as agents of reurbanisation and as the starting point for the long and difficult negotiation towards a sustainable megacity. Who Builds the City? The phenomenon of low-density urbanism raises the question of who builds the city. In post-Second World War North America, the build out of the suburbs required the formation of a formidable cartel of bankers, merchant builders, shopping centre developers and the ‘road lobby’.1 As cities spread out, often beyond statutory boundaries, the newly formed real-estate industry came to dominate questions of where, how and what to build. Developers came to do what public authorities could or would not do; thus the private not the public hand would build the city. Yet the balance between
Commerce as the Generator of New Urban Space, New Urban Images The shopping centre, originally a product of the regional marketing strategies of downtown department stores, was one of the agents that transformed the area outside American cities into a low-density urban cityscape-landscape. Its impact on the development of the suburbs, the renewal of the downtowns, and the spatial and programmatic order of the new metropolitan regions can be traced in the built work of Victor Gruen.2 In his early centres, for example Northland (1954) outside Detroit, Gruen argued that the attractor was the public spaces with their sculpture, landscaping and modest community rooms. Southdale (1956), the nation’s first indoor mall, was planned to function as the centrepiece of a planned community, but its significance was in the extent to which the public space became a stage for events, and a place to both see and to be seen. Gruen’s fusion of retail with the idea of a social and cultural centre was a first step leading from the postwar suburban shopping centre to the ‘branded’ urban districts of today. This evolution was picked up by the developer James Rouse and architect and planner Jon Jerde. Rouse’s particular innovation was to link retail, historic structures and tourism, a strategy that led to his trademark Festival Marketplaces. Boston’s Quincey Market (1976) and Baltimore’s Harborplace (1984) were exemplary public-private projects of their time and required close cooperation between innovative city mayors, the developer and his architects. CityWalk (1993), in Los Angeles’ Universal City, was Jerde’s breakthrough project and amounted to a new development type – the urban entertainment centre. Even more explicitly than Rouse’s Festival Marketplaces, CityWalk posed questions for urbanists: for example, what is urban and what is city? Overturning private/public and real/artificial, CityWalk is both private and artificial, while being popular and urban. Jerde’s project showed that the retail component could be scaled back and replaced by entertainment functions and narrative urban space. Lifestyle Centres: ‘Mix’ The shopping centre, having conquered the city, has returned to the suburbs, recast as a ‘lifestyle centre’. This bewildering designation describes what is basically an upmarket shopping village with multiple buildings, a street grid with sidewalks allowing some drive-up access, wellfurnished outdoor spaces and a broad variety of consumption activities. Often described as ‘town centres’, they are built near upper-middle-class residential areas and
Architekt Daniel Libeskind AG, Masterplan, Westside, Berne, Switzerland, due for completion 2008 The masterplan in 2006. On the land bridge over the A1 are the lifestyle shopping centre complex to the left, and housing plots to the right. The shopping centre is flanked by a cineplex, hotel and conference centre, pool complex with a spa and fitness centre, and a garden centre. The housing will consist of 80 flats for the elderly, and 800 apartments for some 2,700 people to be built over the next 10 years. The regional rail line runs along the lower edge of the site. Regional bus lines stop at the two plazas in light blue.
include offices and some accommodation. In the low-density city, their theme is a ‘relaxed’ urbanity.3 In Europe, more distinctive hybrids of the lifestyle centre are ‘Brandhubs’, or branded urban districts. They are defined by Kerstin Hoeger as developments at an urban scale, undertaken within a framework of public-private partnership, and strategically implemented at a planning and government level to foster urban development. They use architecture and urban space to create an ambience for a brand. The complex interweaving of social and economic goals requires the cooperation of many stakeholders besides developer, property owner and investor. From the beginning, Brandhubs have required the equal partnership of the public sector, including the surrounding communities.4 Westside, Berne A project near the Swiss capital of Berne, scheduled to open in 2008, revisits in European terms the postwar restructuring of the American city-region by the regional marketing strategies of the great downtown department stores. Westside,5 a lifestyle shopping centre complex sponsored by the Swiss department store group Migros, will form a new regional subcentre and provide an anchor and identity to the disparate settlements on either side of the A1 highway west of the city. The initial gesture is a major civil engineering work, bridging over the A1 to provide a landlink for the existing and planned communities. A new interchange will make the
complex accessible to one million people within half an hour, and a regional railway station will link Westside to the Swiss rail network. The core of the project is the shopping centre and a series of public spaces designed by Daniel Libeskind. Every large-scale multifunctional urban development has an impact on its city and region, yet in the case of Westside, what is new is that Migros, the developer, the city and canton of Berne, and the surrounding communities have been involved in negotiations from the start of the project. The goal was to build consensus and support for the project on the part of all stakeholders. For the Migros brand, and by extension all of the other participating retailers, the goal is to develop a robust long-term relationship with their client communities.6 Berne is a city of civil servants with stagnating population and growth, while the suburbs to the west have above average numbers of unemployed and foreign born. The Westside complex should not merely physically link the fragmented western suburbs, but provide a thematic focus: contemporary lifestyle shopping in an architectural setting. We will soon be able to see whether this fusion of infrastructural planning with consumption and leisure activities anchored by signature architectural spaces will be the starting point for a new model of centrality and Swiss identity.7 Ebisquare, Ebikon, Lucerne A traditionally contested aspect of shopping centres is their ‘public’ spaces; who owns them, who has the right to use them and who is excluded? Social space in the low-density city is an endless variation of semipublic, semiprivate, mobile and virtual. However vague the term ‘lifestyle centre’ may be, the credibility of these places as centres depends on the programmatic mix and the nature of the public spaces. A second project by the same developer located on an industrial strip intends to provide answers to these questions. Where Westside is dependent on the architecture, Ebisquare, set to open in 2011 in Ebikon near Lucerne, focuses not on the building but on the performance of the internal public space. As the project is currently out to bid, we will focus briefly on the intentions of the designers, Holzer Kobler Architekturen of Zurich. The lifestyle shopping centre, with a programme similar to Westside, will be animated by a public space that is intended to be in permanent transition. The different spaces of the mall, conceived as a Möbius strip, juxtapose virtual landscapes and interactive functions with the adjoining consumption spaces. At this point we cannot judge to what extent the public space at Ebisquare will be an instrument or merely spectacle. But what is certain is that the architects seek to offer space that is informed and restless besides being architecturally or urbanistically distinctive. At Westside the larger urban organism is what is important, with the architecture as the selling point, while at Ebisquare the selling point will be the ‘wild’ interior space.8 If Westside reflects the complex participatory synergies that must be in play in order to equip the low-density city, Ebisquare
Holzer Kobler Architekturen, Ebisquare, Ebikon, Lucerne, Switzerland, due for completion 2011 Water + Meadows: continuous curated space. For the developer, the starting point for the spatial concept should celebrate science, media, communications and culture. Holzer Kobler’s goal is that the linear space of the mall, formed into a continuous strip, will be a series of landscapes, using sound and light to create both a real and virtual experience. The chain of associations should extend to the product displays resulting in a fusion of communications, atmosphere and stage design.
Since the 1970s, a large number of shopping centres have been built, yet what is significant in terms of urban typology, urban structure and public space is that many of them are located adjacent to each other in ‘clusters’.10 Below I propose the reurbanisation of such clusters as the basis for creating a spatial and programmatic network of public places across the broad cityscape of a megacity.
Section through lifestyle centre complex. Through an act of spatial surgery, Holzer Kobler have inserted a Möbius strip of interactive mallspace that incorporates the roof of the building. The space will be ‘curated’ to ensure the effect and meaning of real and virtual elements. Top: a typical section showing a central internal mall. Below: the mall incorporates the roofscape. The buildings on the right are the Senior Living Center.
may demonstrate the continued vitality of public space even in the medialised, automobile-oriented low-density city. Jakarta: Shopping Centre Clusters as the Beginning of Public Space? The meaning and function of the large shopping centres in Jakarta is slightly different from that in North America and western Europe.9 They are practically the only place for ‘outof-home leisure’, thus they become an essential social meeting place. For the middle classes, other than the shopping centres there is no public space in which to meet. At the moment, ‘lifestyle’ is best expressed in the proliferation of restaurants and cafés where people come to eat, and indeed on Sunday the restaurants are crowded with families having sit-down meals.
Shopping Centre Clusters as New Central Places The shopping centre industry in Jakarta would like to compete in the arena of shopping tourism with Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. Yet merely continuing typical real-estate development practices of the last decades, in which the agenda of private development has overtaken the role of public planning, will lead the city into an economic, ecological and social cul-de-sac. The retail market is already saturated, and the problems of traffic, air and water quality, consumption of energy, and social segregation together present difficult challenges.11 Neither government, private enterprise nor community pressure can resolve these problems on their own. Only a new synthesis of cooperative and collective action can begin to roll back the metastasising consequences of runaway development, governmental weakness and the neglect of physical and social infrastructure.12 Similar to the emergence of the North American edge cities described by Joel Garreau, the shopping centre clusters in Jakarta have become de facto subcentres in an expanding cityregion.13 To contribute to a new Jakarta identity and reframe their potential as social, cultural and commercial magnets,
Cadiz International, Manila and Anggara, and PT Perentjana Djaja, Kelapa Gading Mall, Jakarta, Indonesia, 1987– Google Earth view of shopping centre cluster. Under constant expansion since 1987, the cluster consists of La Piazza Entertainment Center and Gading Food City (village), both of which are open-air and have their own public spaces, shopping centres 1, 2 and 3 with parking (forming an L-shape), a site for future shopping centre 4 with a hotel, the Summit Apartments, a traditional bazaar, shop houses and La Piazza parking. The planned central pedestrian boulevard will require the building of new entrances to all the adjoining buildings. To what extent will the facades to the street be opened, and how will the complex contribute to the liveliness of the surrounding boulevards?
Envirotech Indonesia, Mangga Dua district, Jakarta, 1988– Google Earth view of Mangga Dua district. Straddling its central boulevard, the Mangga Dua cluster consists of four trade centres interconnected by bridges, with adjoining hotels and parking garages. The surrounding district is structured by a T-junction array of boulevards, with four trade centres and hotels straddling the long arm of the T (left). Nearby two train lines serve a passenger station at the edge of a large, now disused, freight railway yard. Along the shorter arm of the T is a new trade centre and a large shopping centre (both to the right). Due to market saturation, both of these new complexes are having difficulties. Enhancing accessibility and diversifying the functional mix of the different centres can prevent duplication and redundancy. Cannibalistic retail development is an unsustainable practice.
developers need to innovate by adding non-retail functions, such as education and training, thus supporting social equity. A concept needs to be developed for the spaces between the buildings, and legible connections to the surrounding neighbourhoods must be established. The potential for Jakarta is that, at the scale of the city, a network of public places can be created consisting of the shopping centre clusters, the historic colonial centre (Kota), the monumental public buildings and spaces commemorating independence (Monas), and the historic seafront (Ancol). All of these need to be linked by coordinated public transport.
reinforcing both its external and internal accessibility, Kelapa Gading is near to being an integrated district centre. The trade centre cluster of Mangga Dua (1988–) is known throughout Southeast Asia as a destination for wholesale buyers and retail shoppers for textiles and electronics.14 Lying just east of the historic centre of Jakarta, the Mangga Dua district is larger and more complex than Kelapa Gading. Rather than an internal pedestrian concourse as at Kelapa Gading, the urban value of the Mangga Dua district should be given by the spatial quality of the boulevards. Not merely traffic arteries, they should be extensively planted with trees, equipped with pedestrian amenities and be well served by various forms of public transport. ‘Living boulevards’ would bind the different trade and shopping centres into a single cityscape. If the adjacent freight railyards could be developed into a new mixed-use residential quarter served by the two train lines, then Mangga Dua could develop into a selfsupporting urban district.
Two Shopping Centre Clusters: Kelapa Gading and Mangga Dua Kelapa Gading Mall (1987–) is a multi-use cluster with a ‘mixed market segment lifestyle mall’ selling everyday articles at one end, while the other end is anchored by the spaces and products that can be found in a good-quality shopping centre in the West. By 2010, all of these fragments will be united by a central pedestrian boulevard, which will require new facades and entrances to the existing buildings. The decision to reorient all of the functions to a new public space is more easily undertaken when the whole complex is under single ownership, yet this is the spatial development that all of the other clusters must follow if these complexes are to have any greater urban value than as mere shopping precincts. Closely surrounded by compact middle-class neighbourhoods, the management at Kelapa Gading contributes to the security and maintenance of the nearby streets. By
Reimagining the Relationship Between Mall and City While global entertainment and media corporations are developing ‘branded’ urban spaces and even ‘branded’ urban districts, more and more people have come to expect urban space that is not only multifunctional and urban, but also safe and convenient. Yet these new large-scale commercial ensembles raise many of the same problems and questions that were levelled against suburban and urban shopping centres. Can the design of the marketplace lead to urban and
social renewal? Under what conditions do corporations want to play a more positive social, cultural and environmental role? And how are the goals of private development to be balanced with the needs of local communities? Our thesis is that current and future environmental problems can only be met by a cooperative effort between the stakeholders.15 In the context of Berne, existing planning structures were modified to enable the creation of the ensemble at Westside. Commerce is being used to rebalance regional settlement, to create centrality, and hopefully to create opportunity across the social spectrum. In contrast to
the consensus building and planned regional restructuring of the Swiss examples, in Jakarta where questions of sustainability and the effects of climate change are creating pressure, such district management, communication and participation structures need to be developed. Can the collective ownership of the shopping centre clusters, working in partnership with city government and the local communities, frame and initiate long-term transformation towards a legible and equitable city? At the heart of this question is mediating the discrepancy between the new rich, the middle classes and the working poor. 4
Notes 1. See, for example, D Hayden, Building Suburbia: Green Fields and Urban Growth 1820–2000, Pantheon (New York), 2003, pp 165–8. 2. Three examples of the first generation of regional shopping centres, diverse in their location and form, were John Graham’s Northgate for Bon Marché of Seattle, KGS for Jordan Marsh in Framingham, Massachusetts, and Victor Gruen for the JL Hudson Co of Detroit, and again at Southdale for the Dayton Co department store in Minneapolis. These arguments and the pivotal role of Victor Gruen are further developed in my Victor Gruen: From Urban Shop to New City, ACTAR (Barcelona), 2005. 3. See two recent articles posted on the internet: Andrew Blum, ‘The Mall Goes Undercover, It Now Looks Like A City Street’, culturebox (http://www.slate.com/id/2116246/), posted 6 April 2005, copyright Washington Post 2007; and, Parija Bhatnagar, CNN (http://money.cnn.com/ 2005/01/11/news/fortune 500), posted January 12, 2005. 4. Kees Christiaanse and Kerstin Hoeger, ‘Corporate urbanism and sustainability’, in Built Identity: Swiss Re’s Corporate Architecture, Birkhauser (Basel, Boston, Berlin), 2006, pp 134–7. 5. Westside is owned by Migros Aare, managed by Neue Brünnen AG, was conceived by Nuesch Development AG, and masterplanned by Daniel Libeskind. Project partners are the city and canton of Berne. The idea to create a regional centre to the west of Berne originated in the 1960s but was shelved because of the oil crisis of the 1970s. Westside is the largest private construction project in Switzerland. Direct precedents for our discussion of branded urban districts are CityWalk, Universal City, Los Angeles; Disney’s Times Square Development, New York; and the Sony Centers in San Fransisco, Berlin and Tokyo. 6. As Christoph Rossetti of the City Planning Department of Berne explained in his email answer to my questionnaire, the participation takes place at different levels: local landowners could register their ideas as the basic programme was being developed; the masterplanning model and urban design concept were developed by professionals of course, yet any citizen, or citizen group, could take part; affected merchants or citizens could raise objections; before permission was given to changes in the lifestyle shopping centre, alterations were presented at hearings attended by cantonal civil servants as well as local citizens’ groups; and finally the client, Migros, asserted its claims during the planning and especially with respect to the infrastructure contract. 7. The building of the Westside complex has had to overcome a number of difficulties, including the decking over of the A1. Professionals and critics may debate the merits of the architecture, but ultimately the skill of the merchandising concept and the variety of the functional mix will be important to engage visitors with the public spaces. 8. Conversations with Klaus-Peter Nuesch, Nuesch AG, St Gallen; Kerstin Hoeger ETH, Zurich; and Barbara Holzer of Holzer Kobler Architekturen, Zurich. Christoph Rossetti, city planner in Berne, kindly answered a questionnaire. 9. Shopping centre clusters are agglomerations comprising two or more shopping centres of different generations, one or more trade centres, hotels, apartment buildings and offices. Shopping centres in Jakarta are socialeconomic entities providing one job per 10 square metres (108 square feet) of net retail space. For example, at the Taman Anggrek Mall, the number of staff needed to run the complex is 200 administration, 400 security, 300 housekeeping, 100 parking and 200 building maintenance engineers. These figures do not include sales staff for the shops and restaurants. In the trade
centres, for example at Pasar Pagi, there are 4,000 staff and sales personnel. 10. The study of the role of urban shopping centres for the future development of Jakarta is a joint project, PRUDEV (The Role of the Private Sector in Urban Development), between Real Estate Indonesia, the department of City Planning and Urban Development at the University of Tarumanagara, Jakarta, and the Chair of Urban Design at the University of Karlsruhe. I thank Eduard Tjiahadi, Jo Santoso, Kemal Taruc, Liong, Herlambang, and everyone who gave me their advice and time. Also, from the shopping centres I thank Soegianto Nagaria of Kelapa Gading and Andreas Kartawinata, Director, Lippo Group. 11. These problems are exacerbated by the effects of the Asian financial crisis of 1990–2, which precipitated civil strife between ethnic Chinese and Indonesians; the real-estate crisis of 1997, which left the city littered with ‘rotten buildings’; and the devastating floods of 2002 and 2007. 12. Current problems include the city’s concern that the explosion of retail space represents a bubble economy. Shopping centre owner-operators and their investors face market saturation: with a further 1.5 million square metres (16.1 million square feet) in the pipeline, there will be an increasing number of dead malls. Shopping centres pay extra taxes, and because of their reliance on air conditioning incur high energy costs. There is a lack of political will and inadequate tools to mediate spatial segregation and social inequality. City land consistently falls to big investors. For local communities there is a lack of purchasing power, housing, health and education. There is no supply of affordable housing, and the resulting demand is exacerbated by immigration from the rural hinterland. The programme of integrating small and mediumsized enterprises, and allotting 20 per cent of retail space to street vendors, has proved difficult to implement. 13. In November 2006, Real Estate Indonesia sponsored a conference on trends in real-estate and shopping centre development that was attended by shopping centre developers, real-estate investors, academics and members of local and national government. Here the City Governor, Fauzi Bowo, exhorted the real-estate industry to work with all stakeholders to engage the problems of the city. 14. Trade centres are large multistorey buildings housing up to several hundred ‘mom and pop stores’, primarily offering textiles and/or electronic goods; they have open floors for a large number of small shops. Based on the practice in Taiwan, stall- or shopholders buy outright or lease their space long term. The largest trade centres have several hundred shopholders. 15. Government must provide vision, guidance and regulation; in practice this means balancing regulatory and tax conditions, creating incentives for affordable housing, and supporting increased public transit. Public and private consultant organisations must provide critical inputs, new cooperative and participation models and equitable development strategies. Local communities need to lobby support for housing, education and small businesses. Finally, the strategic and economic power of private developers must be harnessed for implementation. Given the forecast of growth over the next three to five years, now is the time for stakeholders to begin these transformative processes.
Text © 2008 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images: pp 22-3 & 24 © Architekt Daniel Libeskind AG, Renderings Edit-Bilder für Architektur; p 25 © Holzer Kobler Architekturen, General planning Burckhardt und Partner; Architecture and Facade Peter Völki, Renderings Art Tools; p 26 © Adapted from Google Earth
Old Dispersions and Scenes for the Production of Public Space The Constructive Margins of Secondarity The density of development in Belgium is such that the entire country has become an open city, with little sense of where one metropolitan area begins and another ends. Bruno De Meulder describes the underlying logic of this unbroken urbanscape, and the opportunity it affords for re-editing and reinserting informal social spaces in areas of wasted land.
Urbanisation of rural networks The general urbanisation of the territory is to a large extent a parasite of the pre-existing network of rural roads which undergoes no restructuring during urbanisation. Instead the urbanisation leads to an incremental infill of plots along rural roads unequipped for urban use. In a second phase dendrite-like structures are grafted on to the existing network in order to disclose the second order behind the ribbon development.
The nearly total urbanisation of the territory of Belgium surely makes it an emblematic case in discussions about ‘dispersed urbanism’, sprawl, ‘citta diffusa’, and so many other terms that attempt without too much success to grasp the reality of the contemporary urban condition. Belgium has since unremembered time been a country of laissez faire, where the cacophonic juxtaposition of built fragments delivers surprise after surprise, where an intense poetry – this is Magritte territory – lurks side by side with a nauseating banality of everyday habitation. This at the same time incredibly chaotic and urban landscape seems at first sight to lack any coherence whatsoever. Nevertheless, a closer look allows at least an insight into the ordering logics that determine the continuous production and reproduction of the seemingly chaotic territory, and eventually the development of urban strategies to deal with it. Factors1 that explain the unusual situation of the Belgian territory include: the extraordinary fertility of the soil, which gave rise to the very dense occupation of the countryside since the early Middle Ages; a multitude of small-scale provincial cities, usually only 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) apart; and the intensive division of land property. The territory is administered by a multitude of municipalities which, since the municipal law of 1838, all have the same rights and powers – from hamlet to village to the larger city.2 This extremely decentralised administration turned the territory into an archipelago of municipalities which themselves are a mosaic of the small land properties that underwent a continuous process of further division through inheritance law. Given the general laissez faire attitude, and consequently the absence of any centrally imposed town-planning regulations, the bulk of development takes the form of incremental, piecemeal additions or transformations. Development equals incremental mutation. This general and uncoordinated urbanisation of the territory was fuelled by two main ‘Belgian’ characteristics: a prevalent and persistent anti-urban catholic ideology (which also implied a resistance to any centralisation of power), and the implementation, step by step, of incredibly dense, nationwide networks of different complementary infrastructures (canals, national roads, railways, tramways and, after the Second World War, express roads and highways).3 While the catholic ideology promoted home ownership in the municipality of origin, the density, completeness and accumulation of this different nationwide network created in a certain way a ‘universal’ accessibility for each spot of the territory. The ‘unification’ of the national territory resulted in a unified national land, housing and labour market. Each spot embodied the same accessibility and, consequently, in the long run an equal development potential that ultimately led to an isotropic condition (which might be considered as a zero degree of redistributive democracy). Everywhere – on the periphery of the capital city or in remote hamlets – an emerging, permanent type of urbanity was generated, juxtaposing housing, industry and commerce, which spread
over the whole territory. This urbanity has generally never consolidated – it is permanently emerging – given the mismatch between the disclosed development potential and the effective development capacity required. This process of unification and equalisation distorted the traditional settlement pattern, and broke the monopoly of the city as the centre of production and consumption, concentration of labour, population, economical and political power, as a forum of public debate, and so on. Put simply, it eroded the notion of centrality. In terms of development potential, any crossroads of two national roads, a train station, tramway stop or a highway exit acquired the same competitive advantage as the traditional city. Both centre and periphery vanished and were replaced by an almost omnipresent ‘secondarity’.4 Historic cities became merely insignificant relicts in the isotropic territorial continuum where industry (dense networks of flexible small- and medium-sized enterprises), commerce, residence and agriculture negligently cohabitate. Conventional wisdom condemns this ‘secondarity’ as a burden, as it does not allow economies of scale, and nor does it generate the synergies that concentration and accumulation allow. Because it remains dispersed, incremental and unconsolidated, it does not create any significant public space, nor an established (hegemonic) order. On the other hand, this absence of rules and norms, this generalised condition of ‘secondarity’5 in opposition to ‘primarity’6 – generates an ambiguous space. It creates an ‘open city’, an embryonic territorial constellation that always remains receptive. Its continuously reproduced undefinedness renders permanent its character of wasteland, a terrain whose potentiality is unconsumed. In concrete terms, the combination of a sustained generalised dispersion and a permanently emerging urbanity gave rise to the formation of recurrent tissue figures in the territory: the isolated terraced house in the middle of nowhere; the notorious corner with (by now closed/shut down) pubs at the tramway stop; the commercial ribbon development along national roads;7 the ribbon fragment along whatever road; the oversized and only half-developed perimeter block8 that results from urbanisation without any urbanistic restructuring of former rural road networks, and so on. Over the last decade, plots varying in size, quality and character (residential, industrial, commercial) have been filling in the remaining open meshes of the multitude of urbanised nets that cover the territory. As a result, most of the spatial patterns are endless recombinations of the aforementioned figures, creating such a redundant variety that the territory becomes isotropic, undefined by over-definition. Since practically no sites have consolidated and become ‘primary’ land, they remain permanently emerging. The landscape by definition becomes the defective interplay of simultaneous and contradictory landscape forms: urban and rural, yet, due to the negligent/secondary urbanisation
OSA, Atlas Southwest Flanders, 2002: Ferraris 1777 map of Ypres, West Flanders, and the surrounding area The late medieval territory here is intensively occupied. The countryside is characterised by a dense network of evenly distributed farms of relatively small scale, with a very fine division of the land and a large number of cities, often less then 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) apart. The cities â€“ often with crossroads between river and road â€“ create centralities that appear as an archipelago of cities in a sea of intensively exploited and very fine-mazed rural territory.
Territory of West and East Flanders: from archipelago to rhizome (1770â€“2000) From the 18th century onwards, a dense network of national roads, railways, tramways, highways and expressways is superimposed on this territory. The proliferation of crossroads, stations, tramway stops, exits on highways and so on distorts the spatial structure of the territory, as each of the crossroads creates an equal accessibility and is hence a potential point of centrality. The archipelago of cities mutates in a heavily infrastructured rhizome of secondary centres, and a territory of secondarity is generated.
Oversized perimeter blocks, Wevelgem, West Flanders Over time, this parasitic incremental urbanisation process leads to the formation of redundant figures in the landscape, such as the well-known ribbon development and oversized perimeter blocks with their ever expanding dimensions. In a second phase the second order behind the ribbons is sometimes filled in with additions, garages, warehouses, industrial buildings or, in recent decades, with allotments that consume the last of the open space. This leads to an urban landscape in which conglomerate and template coexist as morphological principles.
OSA: Atlas Southwest Flanders, 2004: Buda intimacy/exposureâ€“public/private The urban fabric that is generated by rather ad hoc and unconsidered infill, construction, demolition, reconstruction, and so on leads to a large variety of open spaces with very different relationships to the private constructions. This unordered, chaotic juxtaposition of open spaces offers on the one hand all conceivable gradients between public and private space, and on the other opens up a register of spaces ranging from extremely exposed to intimate. A re-editing allows the articulation and exploitation of this richness of open-space qualities as what is conventionally only seen as residual space.
process, a lot of residual landscape fragments. These are neither urban nor rural, waste(d) lands that hopelessly try to mediate between different scales, conflicting functions, contradictory qualities and spatial paradigms: ribbon development versus allotment, traditional building block versus Modernist composition, urban versus rural, conglomerate versus template, and so on. In this territory, with its zero degree of spatial quality, wave after wave of development deposited a layer of urban material to the point where the whole territory was covered/urbanised in one way or another. The urbanistic project consequently becomes an intertextual work of re-editing (a weak embryonic) text. The projects presented here, by OSA (the University of Leuvenâ€™s Research Group for Urbanity and Architecture), attempt such a re-editing exercise in Southwest Flanders.9 They attempt to use new development to insert minimal spatial qualities, necessary structures and missing public spaces, while at the same time avoiding an overdose of structuring and definition, which would eventually destroy the fundamental quality of the open city Belgium has become, including the protodemocratic character of its spatial constellation. By no means do they aim for a comprehensive requalification of the territory. However, they do focus on potential sites of condensation (in the sense of subconcentration and precipitation â€“ the fallout of new material) that allow articulation, relief and contrast, and are, in one way or
Buda block/element The urban fabric is generated by ad hoc infill along ribbons and the unconsidered induction of freestanding, large-scale buildings often in a first order/second order relation.
another, intended to substructure the open city mainly via the introduction of public spaces of a new kind. They are not programmatic – programmes are usually interchangeable anyway – but try to use the interstices between production and reproduction to re-create ambiguous spaces (public in this case) that invite – given their reaffirmed ‘secondarity’ – new social practices. In the end, social practices are the sole creators of public life, and hence public spaces. What all of OSA’s projects have in common is the search for new types of scenes – ‘secret gardens’, ‘platforms’, ‘quays’, ‘fields’ and ‘parks’ – that without too much emphasis invite and facilitate new types of social interaction. They are far from neutral, but at the same time everything but overdefined and deterministic. These open ‘signifiers’ have the ambition to unlock the latent potentiality of waste(d) land, the latent urbanity of the open city. In short, instead of following the mainstream discourse on the ‘loss of public space’ (it is difficult to lose something that was never there) and the ‘loss of urbanity’ (ditto) caused by the dispersed city, the work of OSA is an urbanistic credo that is testimony to a belief in emerging new social practices that are enabled by the insertion of the public spaces of tomorrow in an open city that is still only on the verge of becoming urban. 4
Notes 1. For a more elaborated history of the Belgian urbanisation process see, for example, Bruno De Meulder and Michiel Dehaene, Atlas – Fascikel 1: Zuidelijk West-Vlaanderen, Anno 02, Kortrijk, 2002. 2. Fernand Brunfaut, La condition municipale, Le Travail (Verviers), 1951. 3. For more detailed information see, for example, Bruno De Meulder et al, ‘Patching up the Belgian Landscape’, Oase, 52, 1999, pp 78–112. 4. Jean Remy, Ville: Ordre et violence, PUF (Paris), 1981, p 59. 5. ‘Secondarity’ refers to the non-functional and irrational concretisation of a desired spatial experience, a space that is created by processes of bricolage, the subconscious and subversive trial-and-error production of new common grounds. 6. ‘Primarity’ characterises a condition where the production of space is dictated by the necessities of subsistence and survival. It is a modus operandi that assembles utilities to create efficient environments, mostly regulated by an engineering rationality. 7. Bruno De Meulder, ‘Lintbebouwing: Algemeen én Belgisch’, SRO (86), 2005, 4, pp 40–3. 8. See, for example, the case study in Bruno De Meulder and Oswald Devisch, Atlas – Fascikel 3: Wevelgem, 2002. 9. The urbanistic work presented here forms part of the ‘Atlas-project Southwest Flanders that OSA undertakes, in collaboration with and commissioned by, the Leiedal intermunicipal association in South Flanders. So far it includes a study of the municipality of Wevelgem, the Buda Island project in the city of Kortrijk, the secret gardens project on Buda Island, the redevelopment of the St Amandscollege in Kortrijk, the redevelopment of the power plant site in Zwevegem, a landscape development strategy for the Bossuit-Kortrijk canal, a landscape development strategy for the E17 highway in Southwest Flanders, and a study of the ‘Pand’ in Waregem. Results of this urbanistic work are published as fascicles of the Atlas Southwest Flanders: fascicles 0, 1, 2 (on architecture); 3 Wevelgem; 4 Transformator, Project voor de Electriciteitscentrale, Zwevegem; 6 Kortrijk Buda; 7 Gelijktijdige Landschappen, Canalscape, and so on.
Text © 2008 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images © OSA-KULeuven
Buda secret garden The Buda Island project exploits and articulates the coincidence of opposing morphological logics (oversized perimeter block versus freestanding buildings, both zero-degree versions of traditional building blocks and the Modernist paradigm) to create a variety of open and closed spaces that are different in character and nature, as a support for an open city, an inviting space that can accommodate a variety of different uses and atmospheres side by side.
Simultaneous landscapes/canalscape project The existing infrastructure of canals, railway lines and national roads generated the mutation of the countryside into a rhizomatic urban landscape composed of simultaneously present landscapes (industry, urban, rural). The project requalifies this infrastructure in a canalscape, a network of quays, gardens, fields and forests that inscribe themselves in the netcity and in doing so restructure the netcity and introduce spaces for public appropriation.
Water and Asphalt The Project of Isotropy in the Metropolitan Region of Venice Through an exploration of the Veneto region close to Venice, in northeastern Italy, Paola ViganĂ˛ provides an alternative definition of the dispersed territory. Rather than archetypal sprawl, which has developed out of untamed growth of metropolitan areas, this is an ancient landscape of evenly scattered development that has grown up alongside roads and waterways.
B Secchi, P ViganĂ˛ and students of the IUAV PhD in Urbanism, Water and Asphalt: The Project of Isotropy, 10th Architecture Biennale, Venice, 2006 Water and asphalt: the project of an isotropic territory. The research is based on the hypothesis that new conditions today exist for redevising the isotropic space in the greater metropolitan area of Venice starting from its main support: water and asphalt.
Territories of Dispersion ‘Sprawl’ cannot adequately describe a territory of dispersion where specific economies, society and cultures are related to an extended way of experiencing, using, and living in a place. It is a term pertaining to English-speaking cultures, and has a long and heavily connoted history. The phenomenon of dispersion in Europe can be interpreted in at least two different ways:1 the first emphasises the breaking of an equilibrium, the traditional relationship between town and country; the second insists on development ‘without fractures’2 that distributes resources and creates opportunities for individual undertakings. Following the former, sprawl concerns the spreading out of the city and the commuting of its inhabitants; the second deals with traditional conditions of dispersion – for example, a dense network of infrastructures – which, since the 1960s in several parts of Italy, have supported the original economy and territorial form. The two interpretations often coexist and overlap, but to forget the latter in favour of ‘sprawl’ means, at least for many European regions, accepting oversimplified and generic explanations. There are similarities between sprawl and the territories of dispersion, but the process of diffusion, the extended use of the territory3 and the mix of functions differ: ancient as opposed to recent; horizontal instead of vertical; integrated more than juxtaposed. In the metropolitan region of Venice, the longue durée dispersion has been related to the presence of specific infrastructural configurations, in particular of a diffused and isotropic sponge of roads and waters – isotropic in the sense that they more or less create the same conditions throughout the territory, whatever the direction and wherever the point of observation. Movements of different kinds can percolate through them.
In the territory around Venice, water and asphalt today have different types of relations: they run parallel, constructing the same landscape, or separately defining opposing features. Water and Asphalt: Rationalisations In the territory around Venice, water and asphalt today have different types of relations: they run parallel, constructing the same landscape, or separately defining opposing features. In a very close dimension one can appreciate totally different experiences: you only have to turn the corner and you enter into a different landscape where rhythms and sounds produce an estrangement. The supports of a population whose social
mobility has been very high in recent decades, water and asphalt are today in deep crisis. They are no longer considered adequate for contemporary needs and for contemporary imagery: new projects bring to bear a logic of hierarchisation, fragmentation and homogenisation.4 To understand this hiatus we started by naming.5 Our vocabulary is ever less rich and ever less suited to understanding how the various devices that make the plain, the high, dry and permeable plain, the mid-wet and impermeable plain, and the low reclaimed plain, work. We encounter a long history of territorial rationalisation: the Roman centuriatio (a technique for the reclamation and subdivision of the land made by a grid of canals and roads of 710 metres/2,329 feet), the river diversions and rectifications, the waterways excavated in the lagoon, the fishing valleys, filling and reclaiming, the building of roads, highways, tramways and so on – a process in which different forms of rationalities have been superimposed on each other. In a very short and simplified overview, three main periods/events can be identified. The first important rationalisation was the Roman centuriatio. Starting from the 2nd century BC, it developed at the same time as a drainage system, a plot subdivision and a road infrastructure, and proceeds along the mid-wet and impermeable plain, twisting and turning to reach the draining slopes. In the Middle Ages the Benedictine order reclaimed the abandoned system, partially reconstructing it and bringing it into the modern era. The 16th century witnessed the beginning of the great diversions of the rivers entering the lagoon by the Venetian Republic to avoid the silting up of the protective water surface with sand and gravel brought from the northern mountains – the second important rationalisation. The rivers were displaced to the east and to the west of the lagoon in an incredible effort that is at the origin of the new science of hydrology.6 And in the 1930s, the Fascist period, huge reclamation works were carried out in the low wet areas around the lagoon using polderisation procedures similar to those being used by the Dutch. This third great rationalisation was strong enough to completely change the physical and ecological character of the area. Each rationalisation has created its own landscape: the centuriatio, for example, combines rows of trees, cultivated fields divided by minor drainage lines, roads and, more recently, houses and factories. The Project of Isotropy This study poses three principal questions: What is still contemporary in the past process of rationalisation? Is isotropy a figure of contemporary and future rationality? What new conditions have emerged to enable the conception of a new project of isotropy? The process of dispersion, as mentioned above, can be related to the spatial configuration of diffused and isotropic infrastructures. The utopia of an isotropic territory lies within the character of this as of other territories of dispersion.
View from the hillside towards the plain in the proximity of Vicenza, in the Veneto region. The picture is quite exemplary, showing the way in which houses and industries merge with agricultural features, a dense road network and an even denser water system. B Secchi, P ViganĂ˛ and student S Favaro, Water and Asphalt, European Post-graduate Master in Urbanism (EMU), fall semester, 2006 Water (red) + asphalt (grey) + pits and dumps (black). In the metropolitan region of Venice, water and asphalt define the isotropic conditions. Old pits and dumps are dispersed, but in relation to the geological features, and can be reused to design an extended net of public spaces in relation to water and asphalt.
Each rationalisation has created its own landscape. Top left: The aggeratio, for example, combines rows of trees, cultivated fields divided by drainage lines, roads and, more recently, houses and factories. Above: The landscape of the dry plain contains the remainder of a mesh of canals transformed in a tree structure of concrete canals in the Fascist period to irrigate the industrial agriculture in the gravel plain. New processes of rationalisation are today modifying these. Left: The landscape of reclamation. The landscape of the low wet plain is the result of a strong process of reclamation during the Fascist period in favour of industrial agriculture. Today the role and function of these areas can be rethought.
Processes of rationalisation. The Venetian territory has been invested with strong processes of rationalisation: the Roman aggeratio, river diversions and rectifications, waterways in the lagoon, filling and reclaiming, the building of roads, highways, tramways and so on â€“ a process in which the isotropic features have often been reinforced.
Isotropy is an extreme and ideal figure: the territory is not perfectly isotropic and it is not homogeneous. Today a new project of isotropy is at the same time the acknowledgement of a territorial specificity, a scenario to be investigated in its manifold consequences, and a design hypothesis that can be concretely devised in terms of intervention on the water system, on roads and public transport, alternative mobility, forms of diffused welfare, innovative agriculture and the decentralised production of energy. The research here is based on the hypothesis that new conditions now exist for redevising the isotropic space in the metropolitan area of Venice. This is not a big urban project, but an incremental series of undertakings beginning with water and asphalt: the problems of flooding and scarcity demand more space for water; the future of agriculture, after the EU policy of subsidies, is to become a multifunctional landscape; the fragments, often marginal and dispersed, of the modern welfare state, schools, sport fields, playgrounds, public green and so on represent an impressive isotropic distribution that can match with and reinforce a mesh of railways, tramways, waterways and paths; and the energy crises can be tackled with decentralised production. In this framework, isotropy reveals traditional aspects of economic, political and ecological rationality: less costs due to flood damage, an increase in territorial porosity and permeability, both social and ecological. Although not fully accomplished, the great image of isotropy â€“ and its consequences on the design of space â€“ is perhaps the only one able to reconstruct a comprehensive image and the possibility of a territorial design.
The paradox of public spaces in the territories of dispersion is clear, revealing at the same time the crisis of traditional urbanity, of the modern concept of public space and the limits of a strongly individualised way of life. The landscape of reclamation. The schemes here show the complex hydraulic system of the reclaimed land of the low wet plain.
A new project of isotropy is now possible: the problems of flooding and scarcity demand more space for water. The future of agriculture, after the EU policy of subsidies, is to become a multifunctional landscape also for decentralised energy production and woods; and the fragments of the modern welfare state represent an impressive isotropic distribution that can match with and reinforce a mesh of railways, tramways, waterways and paths. 1. Water and flooding areas; 2. More space for the water; 3. Existing woods; 4. Minimum 10 per cent new woods; 5. Roads + railways (in black) + waterways (in red); 6. A new mesh of public transport (each circle is 5 kilometres/3.1 miles); 7. New woods and agricultural areas.
P Viganò, U degli Uberti, G Lambrechts, T Lombardo and G Zaccariotto, Landscapes of Water research project, IUAV, Venice, 2006 Redesign of a gravel pit as a public space and water reservoir (section). The Merotto gravel-pit recuperation is a pilot project that explores the reuse of gravel pits as flood-water reservoirs together with a new canal as a new public space. The canal has a variable section, and utilises flood control to introduce a new type of landscape within the widespread territory and with it a new connection between differing environments.
The Territory: A New Scale for Public Space The paradox of public spaces in the territories of dispersion is clear, revealing at the same time the crisis of traditional urbanity, of the modern concept of public space and the limits of a strongly individualised way of life. A weak structure of small squares, roadside churches, and modern facilities often in marginal and disconnected areas, is dispersed throughout the territory. In recent years, much investment has been made to requalify public spaces within a traditional urban framework, often inventing them where they had never existed and in competition with new places of consumption. The welfare city, highly standardised and isotropic, has found it difficult to represent the peculiar mix of rurality and urbanity of the Venetian territory, and has remained a predominantly functional space. Public space is something larger. It is an infrastructural space that individuals cannot afford on their own. Yet it is a social space that we consider our own. It is not only related to urbanity or to the modern idea of welfare, but to larger symbolic representations. In a metropolitan region such as Venice, where more than 70 per cent of the land is still cultivated (only producing 2.8 per cent of GDP), the reference cannot be Times Square, nor the village community space. In the European dispersed territories, along the isotropic network of water and asphalt, minimal and large-scale projects can produce denser environments. Flooding areas,
former gravel-pits, new forests, irrigation devices, canals and public transport nodes are materials and places with and in which to reformulate the concept of public and the concept of public space. They are dispersed elements that could support today’s different activities connected to an extended use of the territory, to new forms of collective representation and free time. They are not related to an idea of centre and periphery, but to the construction of a field of horizontal conditions for contemporary practices and ecology. 4 Notes 1. P Viganò (ed), New Territories, Q2, Officina Edizioni (Rome), 2004. See in particular my introduction. 2. G Fuà and C Zacchia, Industrializzazione senza fratture, Il Mulino (Bologna), 1983. 3. B Secchi, Un progetto per l’urbanistica, Einaudi (Turin), 1989. 4. H Lefebvre, La production de l’espace, Anthropos (Paris), 1974; see in particular the introduction to the third edition (1986). 5. See P Viganò, U degli Uberti, G Lambrechts, T Lombardo and G Zaccariotto, Paesaggi dell’acqua (Landscapes of Water), forthcoming; B Secchi, P Viganò and students of the IUAV PhD in Urbanism (M Ballarin, M Brunello, N Dattomo, D De Mattia, E Dusi, V Ferrario, S Giametta, E Giannotti, M Gronning, T Lombardo, P Marchevet, J McOisans (Centre de recherches sur l’espace sonore & l’environnement urbain-Grenoble), M Patruno, M Pertoldi, S Porcaro, C Renzoni, A Scarponi, L Stroszeck, M Tattara, F Vanin, F Verona, G Zaccariotto, A Zaragoza), Water and Asphalt: The Project of Isotropy, 10th Architecture Biennale, Venice, 2006. 6. P Bevilacqua, Venezia e le acque, Donzelli (Rome), 1995. Text © 2008 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images: pp 36(tr&br), 39 © Paola Viganó; pp 34, 36(tl), 37, 38 © Bernard Secchi, Paola Viganó; p 36(cl&bl) © TerraItaly™ by Pictometry, © Compagna Generale Riprese Aeree
Intermittent Cities On Waiting Spaces and How to Inhabit Transforming Cities Claudia Faraone and Andrea Sarti tap into the potential of the transient contemporary city, which is incessantly growing and evolving. By networking a series of sites â€“ either officially or unofficially awaiting development â€“ they provide the city of dispersal with a highly dynamic, ready-made urban culture.
Contemporary cities, especially their dispersed parts, tend to change and grow incessantly. The phenomenon of city sprawling characterised the second half of the 20th century and became so widespread and powerful that it has shifted the way cities were traditionally organised, from well-contained urbanities to the dispersed territories we live in today. The industrial progress in building constructions, the development of technology and communication, the mass diffusion of individual privately owned cars, and the transformation of the heavy-industry based economy into a service one, together made cities spill out beyond their
surrounding territories and regenerate their interiors in a continuous cycle of building on undeveloped areas and reuse of existing urban terrains. Exemplary results of this process can be clearly found within the European territory, where different types of sprawling cities, produced by different economic, social and political conditions, compose an even yet small-grained entity. Looking at a satellite image of the European territory, we recognise the Dutch structured dispersion or the Flemish diamond and, further south, the mixed diffused city of the Veneto region of northeast Italy.
Four different examples of waiting spaces: Top: Near a construction site but disconnected from the surrounding urban transformation, on the edge of a development in Marcon. Upper middle: Beside a productive and commercial area, close to an exchange parking lot and a bus stop in Mogliano Veneto. Lower middle: Disused bus depot in Mestre. Bottom: Close to a residential area, within a consolidated neighbourhood in Marghera.
Claudia Faraone and Andrea Serti, Intermittent Cities: On Waiting Spaces and How to Inhabit Transforming Cities, Veneto, Italy, 2004 Map of waiting spaces in a portion of the dispersed city in the Veneto region (the so-called citta diffusa, or diffused city) between Venice-Mestre, Mogliano Veneto and Marcon. The waiting spaces will build on the existing infrastructure of roads, cycle paths, exchange parking lots and bus lines to create an interconnected network.
Spatial configurations depending on waiting space availability and location.
A duration sequence in the network of waiting spaces.
Spatial configuration of modular units according to different activities. For each waiting space, a series of spatial configurations is made possible depending on how much time is available, the location of the space and the requested activities. Each is provided with a city info-point or a modular unit situated at the entrance to the waiting space, and a basic, self-sustainable infrastructure as a possible means of â€˜awakeningâ€™ the space (for example, parking lots with solar panels).
Among the outcomes of this consuming and recycling of the territory, an emerging kind of urban space can be recognised: ‘waiting spaces’ – a definition that comes from their main characteristic of standing empty or unused, and therefore waiting, while their immediate surroundings are growing, evolving and being used. On the one hand, waiting spaces are areas that belong to expanding portions of the city that have never been used but in which it is nevertheless predictable that a transformation will occur. These can be found in peripheral commercial centres and new city extensions around Mestre and Venice city, or in contested urban spaces such as Piazza Freud in Milan. On the other hand, waiting spaces can be found in abandoned structures and places now ready to be used again: the ACTV bus storage in Mestre, or beyond the Veneto region Battersea Power Station in London. Interpreting the dispersed city as composed of intermittently functioning waiting spaces, a new design approach can be applied to the portions of urban territory that are in the time span: just before their turning on or soon after their turning off. Since they have the ability to re-create themselves endlessly, waiting spaces can provide a temporal shelter for urban activities that are temporary or cannot take place inside the canonical productive system of contemporary cities.
While preparing the Intermittent Cities project, we observed and participated in similar projects that were a real test of the short-term organisation necessary for a waiting space. One of these was organised by Esterni, a sociocultural association that promotes non-profit public and cultural activities in Milan. In Piazza Freud, near Garibaldi station, and running parallel to Milan Design Week 2004 for 10 days, this waiting space was ‘turned on’, with concerts, performances, university classes and public lectures, reclaiming the space.
This newly imagined intermittent city will be produced by temporally networking a series of waiting spaces at the scale of the urban region, using the existing infrastructure of roads, bicycle paths, exchange parking lots and bus lines, and using wireless technologies and selfsufficient energies. This newly imagined intermittent city will be produced by temporally networking a series of waiting spaces at the scale of the urban region, using the existing infrastructure of roads, bicycle paths, exchange parking lots and bus lines, and using wireless technologies and self-sufficient energies. As a continuously changing entity, the intermittent city can be switched on or off, assembled or dismantled based on demand. ‘Catching’ intervals of time will allow for a
This constantly updated online database of available waiting spaces can map possible locations and works in coordination with the Venice municipality’s urban planning website. Acting as a territorial interface, it allows single users and small public/private institutions such as art galleries, cultural associations, libraries and community associations to contribute towards building a collective urban and cultural awareness across the territory.
A possible testing location for a long-term waiting space is a site in Campalto, between Mestre and Venice airport. Because of its edge conditions, near a settlement with few facilities and very close to the airport and the main road to Venice, and with a parking lot nearby, we tested our space configurations by organising them in thematic strips. Artistic, recreational, information and promotion strips with different and complementary levels of activities were used to meet every eventuality: from art galleries that might need modular units for their satellite exhibitions, to libraries that might need to close their central building for a while, or the school nearby requiring a new playground for its pupils.
temporary transformation of waiting spaces into public spaces: from a matter of fact to an urban design proposition. Individuals, groups of individuals or small collective entities will be given the opportunity to incrementally build the ‘software’ needed to produce an urban culture for the dispersed city. Small-scale private or public actions with a high amenity value will improve waiting spaces by hosting currently missing urban public activities. Temporal ways of inhabiting and experiencing the city would be possible inside these spaces, along with their management and regulation, through events such as concerts, conferences, sports performances, as well as public activities and facilities like playgrounds, art galleries, small satellite libraries, bicycle sharing points and so on. Working with mobile and changeable architecture, small modular units equip the waiting spaces with flexible devices capable of various spatial configurations to host different users. Sustainable, self-sufficient elements and infrastructure will guarantee that the intermittent city will function, and once a series of activities becomes linked to the waiting space it will begin to attract other, similar or complementary, activities. 4 Note This project has been developed as part of the authors’ thesis at IUAV, Architecture University of Venice, with Bernardo Secchi as promoter and Stefano Munarin as co-promoter. Text © 2008 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images © Claudia Faraone and Andrea Sarti
String Block Vs Superblock Patterns of Dispersal in China The superblock in China has become the dominant unit of urban planning, allowing for rapid urban growth while also meeting the needs of state and property developer alike. Kjersti Monson explains the conditions that have given rise to the superblock, while challenging it by proposing an alternative â€˜stringblockâ€™ approach, rooted more in collective culture and addressing the demands of the market-driven economy.
At the high end, superblocks function as the ultimate in gated communities â€“ truly wonderful tower-in-the-park environments. Alternatively, they can be relentless in their standardisation and repetitiveness. Whether a project becomes one or the other is often entirely up to the developer.
The superblock represents the DNA of urban expansion in China. As the basic unit of urban planning and real-estate transactions it defines the new Chinese city in a way that the grid and parcel defined New York. The grid and parcel laid the foundation for real-estate transactions in the American city that were in keeping with US values related to the individual’s right to land and property. So does the superblock lay the foundation for transactions that are in keeping with Chinese values related to the state and collective culture. Basic cultural institutions and assumptions underlie the superblock form, which was not born in China but has perhaps reached its zenith as a megatypology within that context. Because the superblock type is so dominant as the vehicle for Chinese urbanisation, it is here that any discussion should start by considering improving the qualitative outcomes of new development as it pertains to the public interest, public space and sustainability. A superblock can vary in size from 8 hectares (20 acres) in an existing urban area to 40 hectares (100 acres) or more in newly urbanising rural peripheries. As a type, it is efficient for implementing rapid expansion since it allows the government to limit its hard investment to the planning and construction of a widely spaced pattern of major infrastructure only, shedding enormous chunks of developable land with approved use rights in single transactions, wherein the private owner will plan and build interior roads. The sheer scale of a typical superblock requires that the developer has large capital reserves and high political standing, and must also possess the operational and financial capacity to produce a megaproject. Standard superblocks create an urban fabric characterised by discrete, large and homogenous cells – a ‘candybox urbanism’. This phenomenon is underscored by the requirement in newly planned expansion areas (Pudong is such an area, being built from the ground up on previous agricultural lands) for 15-metre (50-foot) or greater ‘green buffer’ zones between the kerb and the proposed buildings. This precludes multiple blocks from relating to one another with a cohesive streetscape, and furthermore necessitates frontage roads to be built within the green buffer, often duplicating the existing road and encircling the inner block. Because the typical superblock morphology is cellular, it is not a type that blends well with its environment and it inherently tends to diminish the possibility of cohesive public space or the stewardship of natural systems. However, its spatial logic is practical from a planning, construction and leasing point of view. Discrete circulation (in the spirit of the cul-de-sac) for each building phase is considered preferable so that leasing can begin on one area while another is still under construction. The land is parcelled and planned by the government at a scale that requires large financial transactions, both in the sale of rights as well as in the ensuing land improvements and construction. Each superblock project can rapidly deliver large numbers of housing units to market while offering a financially attractive prospect to the global-standard
developer and financier. Buildings within a superblock project tend to be standardised, streamlining the design process and reducing costs. The process capitalises on the strength of the Chinese systems of Local Design Institutes (LDIs) – a system of state-owned architecture and engineering institutes that provide standardised construction documentation at a very low cost. The LDI system is designed for maximum efficiency through an institutionalised preference for using templates and standards instead of pushing design innovation. LDIs are typically a required partner for projects of any scale on the Chinese mainland. In the end, although the result of this process sometimes leaves a lot to be desired with regard to public space, sustainable city-making and social justice, the will to change it is hard to find since it has thus far functioned adequately from both a state and private development perspective. As cities expand ever further into the hinterland, performance is harder to gauge. Collective Culture and the Built Environment The creation of collectivized dining halls, nurseries, kindergartens, dormitories, laundries, and repair shops will really break radically with the existing family attitude toward property, and this will provide the economic premises for the extinction of the family as an economic unit. NA Miliutin in Sotsgorod: The Problem of Building Socialist Cities, 19741 The Communist Revolution is the most radical rupture with existing property relations; no wonder that its development is the most radical rupture with traditional ideas. K Marx and F Engels, Communist Manifesto2 A history steeped in collective culture, along with the cultural assumptions that grew from the system of institutionalised architecture created to realise the communal built environments in the style of Soviet communism, informed how China ultimately structured its land lease and development regulations, which allowed for a real-estate market to emerge in the late 1980s. In addition to defining a legal and political process for bringing land to market, the government defined a planning process for urban land with the superblock as its basic unit. The lack of a finer grain of parcellisation ensured that development would continue at the scale of the collective rather than of the individual. Given the allowable densities, single developers could house entire small cities in one project. The dominant typology for land transactions, and therefore for urban expansion under the current system, is the superblock. In order to understand why transactions are occurring only at this scale, and why the individual remains peripheral to land development in China, it is useful to explore the country’s history as a collective culture. Collective culture, long an underlying component of Chinese civilisation, became a tangible characteristic of each
The enormous model of downtown Shanghai at the Shanghai Urban Planning Museum reveals a large-grained cellular pattern of development typical of superblock fabric. Each block is distinct with regard to massing, circulation and open space, and is typically disconnected from other blocks by large and fast-moving roads, resulting in a sort of insular ‘candybox urbanism’.
Chinese citizen’s daily life in the 1950s through the bricksand-mortar restructuring of both city and countryside into working communal environments and political structures under Mao. When the People’s Republic was formed, the Chinese population was collectivised, with the basic and most important unit of socialisation being the ‘work unit’. The work unit was at the core of everyday life, and was the building block of Chinese socialism. In the city, this building block was called the ‘danwei’. In the countryside, it was the ‘production team’. The work unit was the nucleus of the political and social life of a village, and had spatial implications depending on the means of production employed. An agricultural village was cell-like; an industrial village was linear, and most likely sited along a canal. An urban danwei provided the worker members with everything they needed within a defined and controlled area, including the workplace or factory, residential dormitories, cafeteria and school. As large-scale, closed-loop and collectivised walled compounds, danweis constituted the basic social and built structure of the Chinese city. They were defined first and foremost as centres of production. Throughout most of the pre-marketisation communist era or, more specifically, from 1953 to 1984, land was nationalised. Under the law, two kinds of land were recognised: state-owned land, which was either urban land or a nationally significant natural resource, and collectively owned land, which was rural or suburban. The system of local administration was split into three levels: the people’s commune (administrator of the town and liaison to higher
officials), the production brigade (administrator of the ‘natural village’ – often a group with familial ties – and coordinator of production teams), and the production team (a designated group of peasant labourers working together towards production goals). Land and resources were not held individually, but by the state or commune. Nevertheless, under the law, land rights were necessarily represented by designated parties – those with standing to negotiate in the event of a dispute or landuse change. The state was the legal representative of urban land rights and natural resources. The production team was the legal representative of collectively owned land rights. Therefore the legal framework governing land rights reflected the ideological values of Chinese socialism by privileging two parties with legal standing under the law: the state and the work unit (production team). Collectivisation meant more than the pooling of labour and the communal allocation of resources. It also meant common eating and living spaces – a standard feature of the dormitory living units built at this time. Standardising communal living arrangements underscored the national dedication to instilling socialist values at every level. The work unit, or danwei, was not only the building block of the socialist city, it was the core of communist identity. It represented social identity through work, familial ties and national ideology.
As the basic unit of urban planning and real-estate transactions in China, the superblock defines the new Chinese city in the same way that the grid defines New York. As a type, it has difficulty coping with context, environment and existing conditions. Nevertheless, due to its high efficiency for rapid expansion, clear terms of transaction and strong formal likeness to the collective compounds of China’s recent history, it is likely to remain dominant and should be considered as a formal and functional type ready for urban design innovation.
As China turns its attention to the ever expanding periphery and the countryside, the broad-axe development framework represented by the superblock will necessarily have to adapt. The superblock is highly efficient for planning and land transactions, but its form creates enormous disruption to existing natural and cultural systems.
Marketisation Land parcels are the most important State-owned assets valued at 25 trillion yuan (US$3.019 trillion), more than triple the total value of other State-owned properties. People’s Daily Online, 25 June 20023 Instead of moving toward a completely capitalist socio-economic system, China is in transition to a market socialism. … a natural resource (land), whose monetary value had been neglected since 1949, suddenly assumes a very important role in the overall Chinese economy … How then does this ‘from nothing to everything’ situation come about? Li Ling Hin, Privatization of Urban Land in Shanghai, 19964 Marketisation is a legal and political process by which stateowned land in China becomes developable, and through which real property is brought to market. The marketisation process in China has heralded a period of unprecedented urban expansion. It has also resulted in the resettlement of large numbers of people and the loss of agricultural land as cities and infrastructure rapidly expand. The first hint that there is something fundamentally unique about the new mode of land distribution and development in China is the political incorrectness of using the term ‘privatisation’ to describe it. Indeed, among Chinese planners and officials, ‘marketisation’ is the correct term. Because the state has not in fact turned over ownership of land, but rather has established a system of long-term leases and rights of use, it is considered incorrect to refer to developable land as ‘privatised’. China still perceives itself very much as a socialist state, albeit one that has floated a market of tradable land rights.
When marketisation began as a result of new legislation in the early 1980s, the communes of the People’s Republic were decollectivised and political structures and organisations were renamed. ‘People’s commune’, ‘production bridgade’ and ‘production team’ became ‘township’, ‘administrative village’ and ‘natural village’. The two forms of property remained: state owned (urban land) and collectively owned (rural and suburban land). A key difference under the new system, however, was that no legal representative of collective ownership rights was identified under the law. The laws and processes of development for state-owned urban land have been quickly and precisely mapped out over the past 20 years. State-owned urban land has a clear delineation of use rights and specific quantitative planning and entitlement regulations, giving it the stability and predictability that is a prerequisite of any serious investor or developer. Part of this predictability comes from the fact that the process of bringing developable urban land to market is a highly controlled process in China. As new expansion areas are identified and approved by Beijing, they enter into state- or municipal-level design institutes where land uses and infrastructure are planned and approved. Masterplans are produced according to top-down planning agendas, whether the creation of new government centres for peripheral new towns, expanded industry and logistics around a new deep-water port, key financial districts or new residential units to meet projected demand. These plans typically – and sometimes rightfully – have no relationship to the fabric that existed before them, necessitating substantial relocation and compensation to be undertaken by the developer. Plans focus on major infrastructure and land uses, using the superblock as the basic structural and transactional unit. An auction occurs in which land-use rights are sold to developers who proceed through the site planning, entitlements, construction and lease-up that bring new real estate to market. At the time of the initial land transaction between public and private, government planners have already defined the scale, general land use and scope of what will be built. The government rarely imposes additional conditions that could forward the public interest, such as easements facilitating public space or environmental goals, exactions or performance-based rules. This should be an important subject for advocates of the ‘good city’ in China, as it is in defining these nuances of the regulatory relationship between public and private that one truly begins to affect change on a massive scale with regard to quality-of-life outcomes. In the current regulatory climate in China, the outcome of a ‘by-thebook’ development is typically a fabric of disconnected dense megablocks that may pose challenges to both social and ecological systems. At the high end, these blocks function as the ultimate in gated communities – truly wonderful towerin-the-park environments. At the low end, they are relentless rows of standardised housing. Whether a project becomes one or the other is entirely up to the developer.
The basic unit of collectivisation in China was the production team, or work unit, which was granted communal land rights under the law. The revolution sought to shift definition of the basic economic building block and property rights from being family-based to being commune-based.
In both city and countryside, settlements in the latter half of 20th-century China were defined first and foremost by the means of production employed in them. Residents would work in the factory or farm that defined their commune, or danwei, live in the commune, and obtain services in the commune as a collective. Here, a suburban industrial commune has a linear form, taking advantage of a large canal. A farming commune takes on a cellular form, with a dense residential centre and surrounding farmlands.
The fate of collectively owned land has been different from that of state-owned urban land. Rural and suburban villages are still largely functioning as collectives, although individual farmers have been granted leases. With no recognised legal owner-representative, the land has by default been subject to land grabs and wasteful development practices by local officials throughout China. One area under the collective land law that has developed quickly is the land impressment process, or how land can be reclaimed by the state, converted to urban land and its residents resettled. Meanwhile, the simple questions of who owns the land, what villagers can do to improve their own situation or benefit from growth, and the problem of how potential investors might engage this territory remain vague. From the perspective of an entrepreneur, this hinterland represents too many legal grey areas, with indistinct rights
and limitations. As it currently stands, the countryside is frozen from a land rights point of view, awaiting state intervention. The refined process of land development via the superblock does not fit rural or suburban land. The scale of development and market absorption that a superblock development must inherently assume in order to justify such a large land acquisition at the start may not be realistic in peripheral areas, where the population may be sparse, migration minimal and buyers hard to come by. There are differences in both the social frameworks and legal frameworks governing urban land as compared to rural or suburban land. Market reform in China has led to a specific form of collectively owned enterprise in rural areas (Town and Village Enterprise),5 but has yet to clarify collective property ownership rights, resulting in major hurdles for sustained economic growth and investment. These differences are about to become significant barriers as China turns its face to the countryside, or more precisely the New Socialist Countryside as outlined in its â€˜11th Five Year Planâ€™ in 2006.6 Evolution Creation of a centralised system of planning, a top-down hierarchy of architectural institutes linked to the state, and the construction of communal living and working environments all underwrote socialist tenets in tangible ways in each Chinese citizenâ€™s life and community from the 1950s onwards. The social and political system made communal decision-making a way of life, and the basic unit of social organisation was not the individual but the collective. When China implemented the land-use regulations (LURs) of the 1980s, it created a revised system of land rights, moving towards a system of market socialism. The process of creating land supply and parcelling newly developable land
Former collective types such as lilong (lane) housing or hutong (courtyard) housing are now being replaced as marketisation brings new superblocks online throughout city centres and peripheries. The superblock may differ in the way it engages the private sector in order to be produced, but it maintains the socialist lineage of planning and city building in units of large-scale insular compounds rather than city-building at a parcel scale.
for transaction took the form of superblocks and maintained the fundamental powers of the state to implement top-down control. It also preserved the basic principle of planning at the scale of the collective rather than the individual. Despite the problems inherent in superblock planning – especially environmental degradation and the polarisation of city and countryside – the principles of collective culture that underlie the rise of the superblock as the definitive contemporary Chinese urban form are not likely to change quickly, if at all. This is not because officials deny or do not care about the apparent problems inherent in the type. Indeed, for a system only around 20 years old, one might be surprised that there are not more severe conflicts arising. A lot of trouble has been avoided through the government’s focus on urban land, not suburban and rural land, in this first surge of growth. As China turns its attention to the ever expanding periphery and the countryside, the broad-axe development framework represented by the superblock will necessarily have to adapt. The superblock is highly efficient for planning and land transactions, but its form creates enormous disruption to existing natural and cultural systems. When applied in rural settings, it is a destructive force that can be considered speculative at best with regard to real-estate markets, since no one can predict the kind of density a superblock will assume on a site that is entirely peripheral to the city. As the superblock is not designed to coexist but to replace, it requires a tabula rasa attitude towards context that makes any notion of organic or phased growth that engages local populations nearly impossible to imagine. I propose exploring the superblock as a malleable type that may adopt alternative, less inherently damaging forms. Given the right regulatory framework, superblock-style land transactions and financing could be adapted for redeployment in suburban or rural areas seeking development – keeping the basic DNA of the superblock method intact while adopting a more integrated attitude towards context and form. A Masterplan for the Fengxian District Suburb of Shanghai In 2005, while living in Shanghai, I created a Hong Kong company with two partners – Aaron Loke, a business leader and McKinsey consultant, and entrepreneur Francis Yum. The company, Design Community China, Ltd (DCC), signed a memorandum of understanding with Fengxian District, suburban Shanghai, to undertake an experimental planning process and possible development for Fengcheng town that culminated in an 80-page planning document. Fengcheng is one of the nine towns in Shanghai’s ‘One City Nine Towns’ 2020 Plan.7 DCC sought to establish a formal framework for organic growth in the district that would benefit the matrix of farming villages that surround the town, as well as attract development interests who prefer the predictability of the superblock planning model. We evaluated the existing landscape structure north of the town, noting that where
Top of City in downtown Shanghai is a good example of relative success in superblock planning. The small scale of the block (around 7 hectares/18 acres) makes for an intimate and gardenesque centre. A man-made lake is maintained as a living habitat where turtles, fish and toads reside. The community maintains a newsletter and encourages residents to get to know one another through planned events. However, the project turns its back on the public, with sentries posted at each entrance, and although it engages the natural it does so at a superficial level – creating a sort of pond aquarium that sits on top of underground parking without engaging any larger functioning ecologies.
The Fengxian plan maintains the basic DNA of the superblock but presents as more of a string. The circulation hierarchy, phasing and leasing are the same, but the simple choice of where to draw a property line during the land impressment process – which is entirely at the discretion of the government planner – has enormous potential impact on surrounding communes.
Design Community China (DCC), Masterplan for Fengcheng town, Fengxian District, Shanghai, China, 2005 In a planning study for an area of 150 hectares (371 acres) in conjunction with the town of Fengcheng in Fengxian District, a suburb of Shanghai, DCC mapped the pattern of existing agricultural and industrial communes on the site and determined where village mortality would occur as a result of the existing superblock masterplan.
The DCC masterplan for peripheral Fengcheng proposed a pattern of development that would allow new fabric to coexist with the communes and farmland already on the site. ‘Developable land’ consisted of out-of-date industrial uses, villages that were already facing demise due to existing superblock development, and low-grade commercial edges. Functioning farmland and small villages were largely preserved.
superblocks are already planned and infrastructure under construction, there would already be some village mortality. Using this matrix as an organising structure, we endeavoured to create a plan that could be built, phased and financed like a superblock but that would interact more positively with its context. The plan was composed of focused development areas, allowing existing farmlands to continue functioning, leaving hydrology intact and respecting the boundaries of communal lands. It does not assume or even advocate that these lands remain active farmland in perpetuity – indeed this seems unlikely. The principle at stake is that a new development should not necessitate the demise of functioning webs of activity at its edges. The simple choice of where to draw a property line – which is entirely at the discretion of the government planner – has enormous potential impact on surrounding communes. Our proposal reflects the basic DNA of the superblock in terms of density, circulation, use, public planning role and financing. Formally, it differs from the traditional superblock. It presents as more of a string than a cell, in order to allow adjacent uses to coexist with the intervention. The string block maintains the fundamental components of standard development, but with different structuring rules. Ultimately, the breadth and limitations of suburban and rural residents’ rights will have to be clarified under the law. Once this happens, it is highly unlikely that the superblock will persist in its current ‘candybox’ form as a development type in peripheral areas. As land rights and regulations are fleshed out and become more complex under the law, so will urban form. This project is a tentative first step, but in the future it is hoped that urban designers and planners will further push the boundaries of what is possible within China’s superblock megatypology. Ultimately, our plan was supported by officials in the district (including the offices of the planning bureau, agricultural bureau and party secretary) but has as yet failed to be approved by Shanghai Municipality. Insufficient land quotas, the relative insignificance of the project from a municipal point of view, defiance of typical planning processes and political barriers have all played a role in the delay, and we continue to await a final outcome on the venture. 4
The Fengxian masterplan sought to create a positive interface between agricultural lands and new development. Fields would provide vista opportunities for key public spaces, and views to them were designed into the plan. A farmers’ market acted as the heart of the development and the most direct interaction between new residents and farmers. Where village mortality was occurring, the team envisioned existing structures as reuse opportunities with a unique scale and fabric.
Notes 1. NA Miliutin, Sotsgorod: The Problem of Building Socialist Cities, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 1974, p 81. 2. As quoted in NA Miliutin, op cit, p 81. 3. ‘Land Market Reform Advances, But Calls for Fair Play’, People’s Daily Online, 25 June 2002. (http://english.people.com.cn/200206/25/eng20020625_98507.shtml) 4. Li Ling Hin, Privatization of Urban Land in Shanghai, Hong Kong University Press (Hong Kong), 1996, p 2. 5. Enrico Perotti et al, ‘Working Paper Number 150: State-Owned versus Township and Village Enterprises in China’, The United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research, 1998, pp 24–5. 6. The 11th Five Year Plan of the Chinese Communist Party was adopted in the fourth session of the 10th National People’s Congress in October 2006. Highlights of the rural development policy and particularly the New Socialist
Countryside concept can be found on China’s official government website at http://english.gov.cn/special/rd_index.htm. 7. Shanghai’s ‘One City, Nine Towns’ 2020 Plan has been discussed and its components published and interpreted widely in various media since the plan was adopted by the State Council in May 2001. Maps and documents are not publicly available in print form, but can be viewed on display at the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center in downtown Shanghai. The author documented key elements of the plan through photographs of this exhibition, policy research, and interviews with Chinese planners and academics over nearly three years spent living and working in China. The author also visited, studied and in two cases worked in focus areas of the 2020 plan, including Anting Newtown, Qingpu District, Chongming Island and Fengcheng, Fengxian District. Text © 2008 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images © Kjersti Monson
As development pushes further into the Chinese countryside, and as the New Socialist Countryside concept of China’s 11th Five Year Plan takes shape in the coming years, the superblock type will have to evolve and adapt to a new set of regulatory issues, increasing pressure to ensure social justice and address the very real concerns about environmental degradation in China.
In the Our Beautiful Future Martha Rosler describes Oleanna, a collaborative project, manifested in part at the 2003 Venice Biennale, that joined together students and artists in imagining alternative publics to ‘rescue the utopian hopes of modernity’.
Oleanna was a project for the ‘Utopia Station’ exhibition at the Venice Biennale 2003. The exhibition was organised by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Molly Nesbit and Rirkrit Tiravanija. Of these, only Obrist is a professional curator; the other two are, respectively, an art historian and an artist. The attraction of this exhibition was its origin in a discursive project: a proposed book, a number of public and private discussions, and latterly a set of posters – an ongoing investigation that seemed to have flopped over on to an exhibition like a fish too large for the plate. That year I was teaching a project class in Stockholm’s Konstfack and another class in Copenhagen, at the Royal Academy (in Mur og Rum, a school noted for communal action and social projects), and I invited the students to collaborate on a project for Venice. Considering Scandinavia’s recent history of utopian design and social engineering against a centuries-long backdrop of fratricidal war, I proposed that we think together, imagining an alternative public through a new transnational/postnational collectivity.
We named this imaginary post-place collective space Oleanna, after a failed mid-19th-century colony in Pennsylvania, dreamed up by Norwegian violinist and adventurer Ole Bull, who encouraged Scandinavian farmers to join him there without ascertaining arability. (Oleanna was memorialised in a satirical song by Norwegian newspaperman Ditmar Meidel in 1853. I learnt of it through Pete Seeger’s version in the 1960s.) Arguing Oleanna’s attributes, writing constitutions, manifestos and mottos, we considered Hardt & Negri, Lefebvre, Chris Marker, Debord and fellow Situationists, Tafuri, Buck-Morss, Benedict Anderson, Foucault, Niemeyer, Buckminster Fuller, Kiesler and utopian feminist science fiction, as well as documents and manifestos of resistance and of everyday utopian life on earth, in imaginary spaces, and even in outer space. We interviewed local activists and Free University theorists, as well as a few of the renegade Scandinavian (‘Bauhaus’) Situationists – those expelled from the movement for refusing to renounce the art world. (During the Biennale of 1968, a season of widespread protests and boycotts of classes and refusal to participate in exhibitions, members of this group held a brief ‘sit-in’, calling themselves a Trojan horse; to commemorate this 35-year anniversary, we flew a Trojan horse banner over our spiral-adorned seminar hill top.) A building to house our projects, to act as a base, and to provide a watering station in summertime Venice, seemed necessary; we considered Futuro, a 1950s vacuum-formed plastic holiday house, or a more updated blob. The group’s idea was selfeffacing infinitude, open structure and hospitality. We decided on an unfinished building that would be a hybrid space bridge, spaceship and space station. I invited the Massachusetts-based architect Andrew Herscher, whom I had met mid-project in New York, to work with us online. Herscher’s plans, after many consultations and adjustments (incorporating Biennale-imposed strictures), led to the construction of the space/ship/ station – nothing like a blob, finally, (except possibly the roof) or the mutable bundles of aluminium tubes and plastic sheeting Herscher initially proposed – but a raised wooden octagon with intermittent walls. We carried building sections in teams on unbuilt roads from the canalside. Forbidden to use mechanical equipment, we raised our building like a barn, by hand.
The roof was a drape of transparent plastic dotted with metal circles, such as I had seen at a Copenhagen graveyard. The walls were painted in representative colours and bore painted ellipses – shadows of the absent Futuro – folk-based Danish cutouts, the names, in alphabetical order, of the project’s Venice participants, and a bicycle wheel, since the Scandinavians missed their bikes in canal-crossed Venice (our main poster showed the participants on bikes spiralling into the cosmos). Interior seating was provided by cushions sewn into strips, while outdoors we used ‘seminar cloths’ of oilcloth bearing mottoes of resistance (such as singer Ani di Franco’s ‘Every tool is a weapon if you hold it right’). On pillows or ‘thought balloons’ attached to the cloth, art students sewed an array of direct, allusive or ironic slogans (reclaim public space, water, gross national happiness, friendship, space, power, solidarity, reclaim democracy …). We saw our building as a symbolic bridge and way station to utopia, parked in the garden of the Arsenale to house our imagined community as we reflected on – just after the global multitudes had demonstrated against the US war in Iraq, which began anyway and continues on – matters of exodus and exile, from the Aeneid to the space age (cf the Swedish poet Harry Martinson’s epic poem Aniara, of 1956, about post-apocalyptic Mars-bound colonists catapulted into deep space, a meditation on art and civilisation). We reported on intentional communities in Copenhagen and Jutland, produced a 10-issue newspaper (in Copenhagen and Venice), and made videotapes, performances and quite a few posters on the theme of utopia. Our project, hosted by ‘Utopia Station’ within the Biennale, hosted other projects centred on social space. Some were by local architecture students and others included artists Kirsten Dufour and Finn Thybo Andersson’s plans for a Palestinian community centre in Copenhagen and antiwar flyers from my New York artists’ group. We flew the multicoloured PACE flag displayed throughout Italy that summer. I invited participation by students in my graduate sculpture class in New Haven (Yale) and a small group of international artists (the Fleas) who had participated in a workshop I had led in Florida a year earlier (we still continue with a robust online correspondence). Our group project, in addition to a poster, was a 9-metre (29.5-foot) long banner on the theme ‘In Our Beautiful Future’, produced for us by the Vienna-based Museum in Progress. But the bulk of the project was accomplished with the Scandinavian students, who came together to work, prepare meals, watch and produce movies and tapes, read, think, argue, drink beer, do research and design work, and construct the building sections in Copenhagen before Venice (where we were joined by Flea members from Australia, Canada, Germany and the US).
In addition to providing rest, shade and water, and a space for dreaming for visitors to our garden site (about a kilometre from the Arsenale entrance) in the crushing heat of the opening week, we provided a shady spot on our seminar hillock, furnished with our seminar cloths, where we also held a talk on women and science fiction, a seminar for curators on art projects outside institutional walls, and I did a performance, ‘Speculations and Speculative Fictions’, recapitulating some of our themes. A quotation from Susan Buck-Morss offered us a reigning idea: we have to ‘work our way through the rubble’ to rescue the utopian hopes of modernity, because ‘we cannot afford to let them 1 disappear’. Our unfinished project was meant finally to provide an archive and to create a network for work to be done elsewhere and otherwise. 4 Note 1. Susan Buck-Morss, Dreamworld and Catastrophe: The Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 2000, p 68. Text © 2008 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images: pp 54, 57(br) © Oleanna/Martha Rosler; pp 55, 56 and 57(t) © Martha Rosler; p 57(bl) © Fleas/Martha Rosler; artwork by Deborah Kelly
Oleanna: My Andersson Lind, Nanna Debois Buhl, Tamar Guimarães, Tarje Eikanger Gullaksen, Christina Hamre, Molly Haslund, Ulla Hvejsel, Charlotte Bergmann Johansen, Line Skywalker Karlström, Karoline H Larsen, Jens Hultquist Laursen, Per Nyström, Kasper Akhoj Pedersen, Mia Joo Vo Rosasco, Martha Rosler, Mille Rude, Annesofie Sandal, Julie Sinding, Ulrika Sparre, Nanna Starck, Maria Werger, Lilach Weiss Zach, Erik Åkesson. Fleas: Daniel Blochwitz, Jill Dawsey, Deborah Kelly, Ellen Moffat, Horit Herman Peled, Martha Rosler, Trebor Scholz, Mary Jo Walters
Archipelago of the Negev Desert A Temporal/Collective Plan for Beer Sheva, Israel
Known locally as the ‘non-city’, Beer Sheva in southern Israel is made up of segregated communities with no central core. Rafi Segal proposes a way of creating connectivity while accepting the city’s lack of centre and optimising on its beautiful desert landscape and Bedouin inheritance.
Countless efforts to establish a dense and active city centre for Beer Sheva have failed. Its extreme desert climate, culture and sociopolitical conditions have not allowed the development of a traditional city core. Within the early years of the Israeli state, and under the motto of ‘blooming the desert’, Beer Sheva – in the south of the country – found itself part of the new Zionist frontier that sought to combine advanced agriculture with the national mission of settling new Jewish communities in the Negev Desert. It became the emblematic tabula rasa; its peripheral location and desert setting served as a site of urban and architectural experimentation. Notable here were the attempts to appropriate Modernist concrete housing slabs to the extreme arid climate. The construction of Beer Sheva went in hand with state objectives to push the nomad Bedouin tribes outside the city. Historically, during the early 20th century, under Ottoman rule, the city was conceived as a regional centre of exchange and gathering that came to life just a few days a week when the nomadic tribes (Bedouin) came to set up the market on Wednesdays and congregate for joint prayers on Fridays. The desire to turn the city into a larger fixed urban centre for a permanent modernised Jewish population met with too many difficulties: that of drawing new inhabitants to the city, as well as lack of government support which, for political and strategic reasons, favoured other towns and settlements that were situated closer to territorial conflicts and thus considered a higher priority for national security. Later attempts to house new immigrants in the city increased social and ethnic separation, leading to segregated communities: utterly disconnected from any sense of urban identity, they are still referred to by the alphabet describing the land plots on the city’s masterplan (‘neighborhood c’, ‘neighborhood d’, and so on) The fact remains that although situated in a beautiful desert landscape, in an area with access to water, Beer Sheva is currently one of the most run-down cities in Israel. Inhabited by diverse groups (such as Ethopian Jews, Russian immigrants and oldergeneration settlers) in neighbourhoods socially set apart from each other, it has all the infrastructure of a populated urban environment yet it lacks the sense of city – a notion that led to its nickname as the ‘non-city’. Beer Sheva’s architecture and urbanism disregard its unique natural setting, missing opportunities to benefit from this resource. This attitude towards the environment is also reflected through the attitude towards the Bedouin tribes – most of them currently occupying areas within a 20-kilometre (12.4-mile) radius of Beer Sheva, with a population equivalent to the number of Israelis living within the current city boundaries.
Sketch exploring urban erasure.
erasure # 1
erasure # 2
erasure # 3
Rafi Segal, Archipelago of the Negev Desert, Beer Sheva, Israel, 2007 In this proposal, developed with Yonatan Cohen and Kate Snider, the residential neighbourhoods of Beer Sheva become ‘islands’, shifted apart by the entry of the desert into the city. Top: Existing neighbourhoods. Bottom: The proposed plan. Public buildings/institutions are in red.
Growth and erasure: the growth of Beer Sheva throughout the 20th century (left column) and the proposed future development (right column) involving a process of erasure to expand the city’s inner voids.
New collective spaces are created by giving shape to different programmes within the expanded inner-city voids. Since the programmes are temporal, each with its own cycle, they can overlap and occupy the same space at different times. (1) zones for Bedouin herd movement; (2) flower tourism (flower fields that bloom in the desert aproximately three weeks a year); (3) community agriculture; (4) market areas/trade zones; (5) four-wheel drive recreation routes; (6) tent camps.
Public Voids/Temporal Programmes Departing from the understanding that Beer Sheva’s lack of a centre is one of its inherited conditions, the proposal here introduces a decentralised urban scheme in which the city is fragmented into distant neighbourhoods, allowing the desert to flow through it. These neighbourhoods are set apart from each other, becoming ‘islands’ floating in a desert landscape. The existing inner voids are expanded to a point where they become continuous, creating an ‘ocean’ of desert space in which the island-like neighbourhoods are scattered. This ocean of unclaimed land becomes a transient public space. Within it are formed designated collective areas/zones, each inscribed with a new temporal programme with its own cycle/time frame of activity. The collective zones/programmes intersect and overlap, in many cases occupying the same space at different times. From an environmental and ecological point of view, this inner void prevents the city from becoming one large mass, allowing both desert and city to ‘breathe’. The Bedouin tribes take part in activating this space, as a place of passage from one part of the desert to the other. Segregation, usually understood negatively as interrupting the livelihoods of people, here allows coexistence. It perpetuates flow and enables distinct modes of living and diverse groups of people to occupy the same space. The notion of the urban is established through links and connections between nodes of activity and the juxtaposition of the collective programmes with smaller neighbourhood clusters – all surrounded inside and out by the unique desert landscape on which Beer Sheva has until now turned its back. 4
Overlay of all temporal collective programmes within the inner voids. Existing public buildings are in orange. The collective programmes are shown simultaneously although each occurs at a different time/season.
Existing inner city void, Beer Sheva, 2007.
The Negev Desert, Israel, 2007. Text @ 2008 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images ÂŠ Rafi Segal
Peripheral Landscapes, El Caracol, Mexico City In Mexico City, unplanned illegal development exists cheek by jowl with developerdriven housing. Jose Castillo of arquitectura 911sc explains how the practiceâ€™s project for New Caracol provides leisure facilities and open space that afford opportunities for social and cultural exchange between the two different communities.
During the mid-20th century, El Caracol became a quite productive industrial landscape, with a spiral jetty moving water along shallow ponds extracting the sodium carbonate by evaporating the water and then processing it to use it in the factories nearby. An area of agricultural fields, with no housing, just infrastructure, would become a settlement of close to two million people in just five decades.
Historically, the urbanisation that characterises Mexico City’s periphery is the materialisation of a twofold process. On the one hand informal urbanisation, the formerly dominant model of citymaking, has been produced outside the legal, regulatory and professional frameworks through different forms of occupation such as squatting, illegal sales and subdivisions of underserviced land. On the other we see a more recent phenomenon, characterised by the large-scale transformation of greenfield and brownfield tracts of land into developer-driven housing. El Caracol is such a site – a palimpsest of histories, geological, hydrological and industrial, as well as social and political following the logic of real-estate and informal processes. The El Caracol plant was built on the site in 1942 to desalinate the water of Lake Texcoco by moving it through a series of shallow ponds in a spiral path and extracting the sodium carbonate. In the mid-1990s the plant shut down, and 10 years later 13,000 new units of low-income housing were built. Just next to them is the informal settlement of El Salado, a continuously growing self-built, para-legal community. arquitectura 911sc’s project for the New Caracol recognises the site as a space between city and landscape, between the suburb and the shanty town, between the natural and the post-industrial. It is also the space of negotiation between conflicting forces, such as the public need for preservation and the private thrust for development. El Caracol introduces a new kind of open space that supports the coexistence of multiple forces. Aside from functioning as a park for leisure and contemporary art, and a working hydrological infrastructure, it also acts as a rapport between formal and informal development.
arquitectura 911sc (Jose Castillo and Saïdee Springall), New Caracol, Ecatepec, Mexico City, 2007 Render: View from the southeast. By densifying through specific punctual interventions in the northwestern part of New Caracol and leaving the southeastern section as a hydrological infrastructure, the project strives to erase the distinction between infrastructure and park, city and landscape.
Satellite image showing the different patterns of urbanisation, dis- and sub-urbanisation operating in the northern periphery of Mexico City. Caracol remains the most visible geographical marker, and the other urban dynamics operate around it.
Development diagrams. The transition from greenfield/brownfield to (sub)urbanised land is always an incremental process with complex dynamics over time.
The multiplicity of conditions at El Caracol show the ambiguous nature of the periphery.
In arquitectura 911sc’s proposal, the autonomous 13,000-unit development and the adjoining informal settlement are complemented by programmes in the New Caracol that they currently lack, including workspaces and retail spaces, open space and infrastructure. In the context of large megacities, where sprawl is the dominant mode of growth and where there is always a battle between nature and urbanisation, the project strives to put infrastructure on the front burner, achieving improved performance even within the context of low-density growth. By preserving the defined geometry of El Caracol, and charging it with programmes and use, geography and infrastructure become a more relevant urbanism for the outskirts. 4 Text © 2008 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images: pp 64-5, 66-7 © arquitectura 911SC; p 65(t) © Aerofoto México
Plan: scale 1:10,000. The New Caracol project is a landscape of negotiation: between the formal and the informal, the natural and the urban, and the hydrological and the leisure park.
Urban Voids: Grounds for Change Reimagining Philadelphiaâ€™s Vacant Lands
Dispersal is most often regarded as an upshot of population rises as the demographic grows and spreads outwards of the city centre. Cities, though, can simultaneously experience contraction and expansion. Despite being the sixth largest city in the US, Philadelphia is a ‘shrinking city’; deindustrialistion has prompted urban abandonment at the same time as the growth of urban sprawl. Deenah Loeb, executive director of the City Parks Association of Philadelphia, describes how the URBAN VOIDS competition was launched in order to trigger public discussion and the reimagining of a greened city. What does a city do to respond to its vacancy crisis? Decreasing populations in many American cities during the last 40 years have shifted the dynamics of the built environment across the nation. Philadelphia is an example of a cityscape that has been greatly impacted by both deindustrialisation and suburbanisation: the city currently has more than 30,000 vacant plots totalling around 405 hectares (1,000 acres), an area roughly the same size as its city centre. Philadelphia’s present vacancy crisis is a result of urban abandonment and extensive sprawl. It is a place where the ‘economy is drifting as it responds incoherently to continued 1 industrial restructuring’ – concerns that are shared by cities throughout the country. The City Parks Association launched URBAN VOIDS: grounds 2 for change in September 2005 as the second phase of the Philadelphia LANDvisions initiative (www.landvisions.org). This multiphase programme was created to generate new thinking about the future of Philadelphia’s vacant lands and to act as a catalyst for implementation: vacancy could be an opportunity to imagine a new future for the city that had lost its population, resulting in lower urban density. The URBAN VOIDS: grounds for change international ideas competition attracted 220 entries from 27 countries, and challenged entrants to propose new visions and possibilities for Philadelphia’s extensive inventory of vacant land by responding to the city’s unique ecological infrastructure. It offered an opportunity to design in relation to shifting human and urban marks on the land. Similar to the way that land and water resources have historically drawn people to settle, the ecology of a place can again be a force that can shape urban form. The competition entries featured here investigate and illustrate how this low-density urban environment can be reoccupied, instilling the voids with a wide range of new uses. 4 Notes 1. Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy, Back to Prosperity: A Competitive Agenda for Renewing Pennsylvania, Brookings Institution, December 2003, p 1. 2. Competition advisor, Van Alen Institute, New York.
City of Philadelphia: density of vacant properties, 2006.
Front Studio (Yen Ha and Ostap Rudakevych), Farmadelphia, 2006 Front Studio’s entry proposes transforming the city’s urban fabric with the introduction of farmlands – incongruous rural elements that create a juxtaposition between farm and city. The conversion of vacant sites would provide employment and encourage entrepreneurship: the act of farming seeks to empower residents to take charge of their land while creating localised centres of activity. Farm and city begin to function as one integral machine combining the pleasure of open sky and land with the richness of city living.
Thaddeus Pawlowski and Srdjan Jovanovic, Hilltopia: new topographies, new communities, 2005 The Hilltopia team suggest taking the excess soil from rapidly developing suburban areas to build new topographies in the city. These new landforms – hill-bounded neighbourhoods – would guide the city’s evolution of new boundaries providing spaciousness and privacy . The mounded forms could also support new energy-efficient housing models, employ sustainable practices for managing storm-water treatment or, at their summits, turbines for new energy.
Anuradha Mathur and Dillip da Cunha, Bio-Philadelphia.com: engineering a new surface, 2005 Bio-Philadelphia is poised to champion the transition from technology to biotechnology, from making inert things (such as manufacturing) to making living things. This shift of industry will open new frontiers in science and in the nature of human settlement. Philadelphia will sculpt new multifaceted working landscapes that support greenhouses, experimental fields for energy, environment and economy, and dynamic living surfaces. The new landscape will blur boundaries between industry and habitation in every sense, â€˜reactivating the American frontier toward the cultivation of a new living surfaceâ€™.
Jill Desimini and Danilo Martic, Timescapes: densifying community activities, 2006 Timescapes proposes to stimulate discourse between the vacant lots of the inner-city neighbourhood and the adjacent open space of Fairmount Park, while looking skyward as a strategy to cultivate density. The 3-D sidewalk is a specific development of this investigation, gathering together a range of activities in a vertical spatial element that engages the edges of the neighbourhood.
Text © 2008 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images: p 68 © City of Philadelphia; pp 69-73 © Urban Voids: grounds for change, City Parks Association of Philadelphia
Urban [IM]plants Tactics for Recombining Landscape and Collective Space in Bonheiden, Belgium Bonheiden, in the province of Antwerp in Belgium, lies in a region known for its exceptional natural beauty. Though the surrounding rural setting has remained protected this has often been to the detriment of urban life, as the built environment has been subject to a process of banal suburbanisation. Els Verbakel and Elie Derman explain how they propose to turn this situation around by creating public spaces that use the town’s ‘original landscape as the base material’.
Urban [IM]Plants Instead of a masterplan, Els Verbakel, Elie Derman and Ward Verbakel propose a more flexible, interactive and dispersed approach of pinpointed interventions. Each intervention can occur independently of the others and can function as a catalyst for its immediate surroundings and beyond.
In the autumn of 2005, Bonheiden, a town of 14,000 inhabitants in the Flemish periphery, organised an invited competition to rethink the spatial quality of its centre. The Belgian township called for a vision that could cope with an ageing population and development pressures without losing its rural character. Once famed for its landscape of heath, fenland, marshland and forests, the town is now gradually losing its raison d’ê tre. It is just one example of many Flemish towns undergoing the aftereffects of the countryside’s massive postwar suburbanisation. The population that gradually moved to suburban villas in the periphery of rural villages during the 1960s and 1970s is now ageing and relocating to high-end multi-unit housing projects in the centre of town. In recent years, Flanders has become a prime case study of urban dispersal, deeply rooted in the economic and political history of the region. At the scale of western Europe, the Old World version of suburbia has become the standard model for living. According to traditional ways of studying the city, Bonheiden is an insignificant suburban island floating in a peripheral void, in between larger urban cores connected by highways and trains. Yet when this new dispersed urban condition is recognised in its own right, a new vision for the town can play an exemplary role within the region and beyond. Designated by the Flemish Structure Plan as a ‘Built Peripheral Landscape’, Bonheiden’s future does not look very bright. The Flemish policy for this town and similar areas in Flanders limits future urban growth and preserves the existing green space, thereby ‘freezing’ the present situation and encouraging the current tendency for grey, boring and generic towns. However, Derman Verbakel Architecture and Ward Verbakel Architect propose reinterpreting this vague terminology and exploring the possibility of boosting the town by developing a new vision for its public spaces, using its original landscape as the base material. The proposal was selected by Bonheiden to provide strategies to increase the built density of the suburban town while reintroducing and strengthening its connection to landscape and nature. The project offers an alternative to a conventional masterplan by presenting a ‘design toolbox’ instead – a matrix of pinpointed interventions of various scales and budgets that can be flexibly modified and implemented on demand, leaving the town the power to control its own progress and ‘master’ its own future.
Els Verbakel, Elie Derman and Ward Verbakel, Image Quality Plan, Bonheiden, Belgium, 2005 Landscape vs public space While the current urban fabric of Bonheiden separates the public from the landscape, Ward Verbakel’s proposal brings the landscape to the public spaces, pulls the public into the landscape and creates hybrid living typologies between urbanity and nature, thereby creating a ‘collective landscape’.
Flanders: Traditional urban model vs dispersed urban model When looking at Flanders according to the traditional urban model, Bonheiden is an island surrounded by a peripheral void, floating in the mazes of a network of cities. In accepting the new dispersed urbanised territory as part of this urbanity, Bonheiden becomes an important player in what could be seen as the dominant urban condition in western Europe.
urban [im]plants = landscape as collective The project uses a technique of urban [im]plants: recombining segments of public space and landscape in punctual interventions of changing scales. It thereby reintroduces the formerly wild heath landscape back into the city centre through specific, highly tangible design interventions. Landscape, in its most primordial sense, thus becomes the main component of the renewed public space. Recovering this initial attractor neither replaces nor erases the identity of recognisable public spaces; rather, the reintroduction of a wild heath landscape remoulds and reactivates the town centre into a new and surprising type of urban space, allowing the inhabitants direct interaction with the primary natural condition of the place.
Former town hall: before and after Bonheiden’s centre currently suffers from an ageing population and development pressures, particularly high-end multi-unit housing projects that are quickly turning the town into a generic, grey and boring place. The project offers an alternative future where the introduction of hybrid living typologies, combining urbanity and nature, turns the centre into a vertical landscape and, through combined programming, can attract a mixture of inhabitants.
The emergence of a collective landscape The majority of the town’s landscape is currently in private hands – mostly in the form of villa gardens – which does not sustain a lively public space. In the long term this will discourage new inhabitation. However, by reclaiming the landscape as collective and, in addition, transforming the existing public spaces, a collective landscape will stimulate new urban life.
urban [im]plants = hybrid interventions
Parking plus Both in the public and in the private domain, the project proposes a series of ‘urban hybrids’ that formally and programmatically recombine urbanity and landscape in small-scale interventions. One such example is the ‘parking plus’ fields, hybrids between parking lots and fields of nature such as orchards, small-scale agriculture, parks, and so on. This combined typology allows for an increased number of parking spaces in the town centre while at the same time enlarging the green spaces and activating collective living.
Modifying relationships between built fabric and nature produces new hybrid urban conditions. In the core of each design intervention, urbanity and nature merge into an irreversible hybrid of structure and vegetation, ranging from green kiosks and ecological advertisement panels to hanging-garden modules and vegetated street lighting. The hybrid implants are organised according to three spatial registers, characteristic of the urban configuration of Bonheiden: Fields – surfaces such as squares, parks and natural domains; Lines – continuous spaces along streets and paths; and Points – structures and art installations. Every component can be implemented independently as a stimulator of the surrounding urban space.
Floating pergola and café-terrace A series of architectural typologies was developed to ensure that in the private domain every structure can contribute to a new visual identity for the town. For example, a floating pergola can be added on undeveloped sites adjacent to commercial properties to create a new vertical landscape in the centre of town, and can be rented for private events or for commercial promotions. A café-terrace can be added to existing restaurants or bars, providing outdoor seating areas that can be closed off in the winter and, again, contribute to a new and green collective street facade.
Toolbox: point interventions A toolbox organises all proposed interventions according to location and category. In this case the point interventions are a series of architectural proposals that intensify vertical green space within the town’s collective spaces.
urban [im]plants = toolbox strategies
Building regulations In a second phase, Els Verbakel, Elie Derman and Ward Verbakel translated their vision for vertical green space and hybrid living typologies into a series of building regulations, formulating nine principles for any new building in the town. The regulations range from ‘virtual parcellation’ to ‘green fingers’ and ‘parking plus or minus’.
To achieve flexible and innovative design and policy strategies, a matrix organises all of the interventions according to location, type of intervention and morphology, which operates as a ‘toolbox’ of design interventions and principles. Instead of a fixed predefined document such as the traditional masterplan, Derman Verbakel Architecture and Ward Verbakel Architect suggested an opensource method that could be ‘mastered’ by the design team, the town and its inhabitants. The interventions range from art projects, small and larger buildings and public spaces to building regulations, urban design guidelines and communication projects, in which the landscape serves as a point of departure. Each intervention was tagged with an ID card specifying the component location, architecture, investment, urban impact and revenue. This allows components to be assessed in communication with the town and its inhabitants throughout the process of implementation, and permits the town to instantly imagine a future quality for its centre through pinpointed proposals. A piecemeal and guided approach provides greater flexibility, but also offers space for close collaboration with inhabitants and other user groups. Through a feedback mechanism, the results of the interventions are continuously evaluated and redirected before further investments are planned.
Building regulations case study For specific project proposals, the team applied the principles of the building regulations by visualising them for specific locations such as the church square.
The project is currently being implemented through different mechanisms such as the creation of a legally binding structural execution plan, an image quality chamber that stands in direct dialogue with local developers and architects and advises the town on each building application, the execution of ‘test projects’ such as ‘parking plus’ locations and more. The practices’ approach of strategic [IM]plants has proven to be an effective method not only to formulate an appropriate vision for the town, but also to implement this vision in small steps with immediate results, without having to wait for slow and after-the-fact policies. The proposed collective landscape has therefore already entered the imagination of the town’s officials and inhabitants, providing them with a new identity as a dispersed yet urban entity. 4
Architectenbureau Reginald Schellen BVBA, Project Hoek Kerkplein Berentrodedreef, Bonheiden, Belgium, 2007 As a result of the case study exercises above, the image quality plan influenced the architecture of new building.
Text © 2008 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images: pp 74-8, 79(t) © Els Verbakel and Elie Derman, Derman Verbakel Architecture and Ward Verbakel Architect; p 79(b) © Architectenbureau Reginald Schellen BVBA
User-Focused Public Space
(M)UTOPIA in Denmark The Danish practice MUTOPIA brings to public space a strong sense of delight and playfulness, while demonstrating an overriding concern with the end user. As Serban Cornea of MUTOPIA explains, a temporary plaza for the extensive development of Ørestad Nord in Copenhagen aims ‘to speed up the process of creating the area’s own identity’, while the practice’s housing for LyngbyTaarbæk, Hovedstaden, audaciously puts the ‘garden’ back into the ‘garden suburb’ by relocating the transport infrastructure to the rooftops.
The Mikado Plaza consists of a green area with grass and fir trees, crisscrossed by three blue paths and one of asphalt. Each path forms a socalled activity space with a theme of its own.
MUTOPIA is a young Copenhagen-based architecture office that merges idealism and visionary activity (UTOPIA) with expediency, evolution and change (MUTATION) working towards an architecture based on user participation. The practice’s user-focused design approach produces public space by combining a wide range of design tools and communication strategies for mediating between different interests and needs, which encourages support among the stakeholders, while it engages in dialogue with the users and testing insights gained during processes of user exchange.
MUTOPIA is in the process of completing the city park in the Ørestad City downtown district. The 7.5-hectare (18.5-acre) project is due for completion in spring 2008 and is operating with concepts similar to Mikado Plaza; namely, a (flexible) matrix of round ‘islands’ that have been programmed by means of a participatory planning process in collaboration with local residents.
Mikado Plaza, Ørestad Nord, Copenhagen, 2005 Mikado Plaza is the first of several MUTOPIA-designed temporary urban public spaces (TUPS) planned for Ørestad, a new urban development in Copenhagen that extends south of the city centre towards the airport and the Øresund link to Sweden. With an estimated building time of 20 years, Ørestad is lacking the identity provided by the multiple layers of the historic city centre. Due to the size of the development, the area will continue to present itself to visitors and new residents as a gigantic building site with few, if any, public spaces for many years to come. TUPS were conceived as a strategy for creating temporary urban public spaces on the building sites in Ørestad, in order to provide recreational facilities for the residents of areas under construction. Using unique spatial interventions, the strategy involves the residents in the process of defining their urban environment, thereby providing a one-to-one testing ground for urban life. The design for the Mikado Plaza was shaped by the dreams and needs of 100 future users, visualised as a statistical diagram with each column representing their favourite activity. The columns were then ‘thrown’ over the area, like gigantic Mikado (‘pick up’) sticks, whereby each activity was proportionally represented within the available open space – not only providing the desired activities but also encouraging multiple ways of interaction between different inhabitants, visitors and passers-by. The TUPS strategy was devised by MUTOPIA as a catalyst for public life and identity by means of participatory planning and flexibility. By using the building sites of today as temporary public spaces, it aims to speed up the process of creating the area’s own identity, while at the same time providing the residents with a sense of history. PLAYCER, an internet-based scenario game, enables users and inhabitants to visualise and discuss ideas for future urban environments. The insight and knowledge produced by such scenarios will inspire future design concepts, for the transformation of Mikado or the development of new temporary public spaces, that will continuously evolve and transform in an ongoing dialogue process between inhabitants, users, designers and authorities.
The Ørestad development comprises a series of urban areas – Ørestad Nord, Amager Fælled, Ørestad City and Ørestad Syd – separated by green recreational areas in between. A hundred people whose daily movements take them to Ørestad Nord were asked to select their favourite activity from a choice of five, ranging from chill-out to sport. Their answers, represented as a statistical diagram with each column representing an activity, have subsequently triggered the design of the space.
Star gardens suburban dwellings, Lyngby-Taarbæk, Hovedstaden, Denmark, competition proposal, 2004 Urban sprawl has been and often still is motivated, commercially and ideologically, by the aspiration to access substantial amounts of green areas. However, the massive amount of infrastructure required by sprawl, along with the interest from the private market in higher-density buildings, leaves little or no room for gardens. Here, elevating car traffic on the roofs of 180 terraced houses allows for a more efficient use of the building footprint, organised in a star shape. Each housing ‘finger’ combines dwellings, car access and parking areas into new hybrid infrastructures, or ‘sky streets’. Car-free landscape wedges created in between the housing fingers provide collective recreational areas.
‘Lifting up’ the car traffic on the roofs of the terraced houses allows for a more intensive use of the buildings’ footprint: each housing ‘finger’ contains both dwellings and the required car access and parking areas organised as ‘sky streets’ on top, while at the same time the landscape wedges in between the housing fingers are preserved as car-free public recreational areas. Each dwelling unit has two entrances (one from the upper roof deck and one from the park), as well as two different private spaces related to each entrance (a roof terrace and a garden), which unite the best of both worlds: urban life above and suburban greenery below. 4
The star-shaped layout of the residential area creates a central plaza, unites the northern and southern parts of the site as a coherent whole, and provides the development with a strong identity while at the same time securing public accessibility throughout the entire area.
Text @ 2008 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images: ÂŠ MUTOPIA ApS
Royal Dutch Military Police Campus Zvi Hecker’s Landscape Urbanism Situated close to Schiphol Airport, Zvi Hecker’s new police campus for the Royal Dutch Military Police is located in the Randstad area; the ‘rim city’ conurbation that comprises the four biggest Dutch cities – Rotterdam, Amsterdam, The Hague and Utrecht – and has come to epitomise the most intensive European condition of dispersal. As Rafi Segal describes, Hecker chooses to address this context by providing the campus with ‘a notion of the urban’ that creates ‘a city within a wall’.
Zvi Hecker, Royal Dutch Military Campus (KMar), Schiphol International Airport, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 2002– This project unites in a single location the various branches of the Royal Dutch Military Police, responsible for maintaining security at Schiphol International Airport. Programme: multifunctional complex of living, working and training facilities for 1,500 staff stationed at Schiphol Airport, with a built area of 33,000 square metres (355,209 square feet) on a 77,000 square-metre (828,821-square-foot) site. Client: DVD (Ministerie van Defensie); Project manager: DHV bouwadviseurs; Structural engineer: Arup, Amsterdam.
View from the southeast. Highway no 4 defines the northern edge of the site.
Increasing demands for airport security led the Dutch government to establish a new centre for the Royal Dutch Military Police (KMar) at a site adjacent to Schiphol International Airport. In addition to the requirements to combine living, working and training facilities in one complex, the symbolic presence of the project as the main gateway to the Netherlands, seen from the air and the runways, also played an important role. These programmatic demands came with a problematic site and several constraints: exposure to the invasive noise of air and highway traffic, radar limitation on the location of the various programmes on site, restrictions on building heights, and other more general conditions such as building on a site that is below sea level – in this case by 3.6 metres (11.8 feet) – as is common in the Netherlands. The architectural challenges of this project were therefore twofold: first, to create an environment of good working and living conditions in an unfavourable and restricted site, and second to provide an architectural expression for an institution of state power and control in a 21st-century democratic society. Characteristic of airports and their surroundings, which are for the most practical reasons located in low-density environments, this site is situated within the dispersed Dutch Randstad. Although placed outside the traditional urban context, the project’s complex programme, multiple scales, connections and inclusion of diverse routes and speeds of movement tie it more to the notion of the urban. In contrast to the concept of the campus as a collection of individual scattered buildings implanted in green space, KMar is conceived of as a continuous wall-like bar building, set along the edges of the site forming a peripheral structure that gradually opens up towards the centre. The ‘bar’
buildings that form the structure accommodate offices, dormitories, educational facilities and other programmes, freeing the central space for common facilities and sports fields. The bars are layered and juxtaposed one on top of the other, creating both a larger scale massing that relates to the linearity of the runways and highway, and smaller intimate spaces that shield and protect from the external disturbances. This architectural strategy turns the campus as a whole into a kind of landscape created by the interweaving of the wall-like buildings and the open spaces created in between them and around them. The long greened roofs of the bar buildings merge with the surrounding fields and create a series of terraces. From the air and at eye level, the line between building and landscape is blurred. Yet from a functional point of view, the campus resembles more a kind of city; with streets, bridges, elevated buildings, courtyards, clusters and other elements – a sequence of spaces defined by buildings and linked by routes of movement. In this sense, it is, as its designer Zvi Hecker called it, ‘a city within a wall’ or an emptied-out fortress, of which the walls have split and shifted to allow light, air and space to enter. The project thus challenges the traditional distinction between city, landscape and building. It draws a line that oscillates between these while incorporating them into one architectural-urban thinking. Hecker’s KMar campus offers an integration of building, landscape and infrastructure. It does so while provoking a new expression for the public institution of the state’s military police. Its public dimension is not only evident in the variety of collective gathering spaces created within it, but also through its external presence and location – representing a government institution.
Studies and sketches of the site plan as it developed.
The KMar campus as a continuous wall-like structure. Site plan. The campus located along highway no 4, and runways 1 and 2 of Schiphol International Airport.
Sketch of the overlapping ‘bar’ buildings.
The campus’ horizontal, dynamic and dispersed nature counters the concentric, symmetric, hierarchical and enclosed buildings commonly associated with state power, control and supervision. A main element of enclosure – the peripheral wall – becomes here the building itself, which does not enclose a thing but meanders around open spaces. Furthermore, this peripheral ‘wall’ is permeable; by its mere shape and configuration it creates a form that interweaves and connects open and closed, building and landscape, collective and private spaces, allowing the campus to remain ‘exposed’, open and porous. Here lies its programmatic and symbolic strength. As Hecker himself noted: ‘Given that democratic society requires an army and police, the architect should find a way to express this need. It is only in dictatorial regimes that one does 1 not know where and how police operate.’ 4 Detailed views of the courtyard spaces. Note 1. Zvi Hecker, letter to the author, April 2007, recalling his statement in the commission interview for the project, 2001. Text © 2008 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images © Zvi Hecker
Ville-Port, Saint-Nazaire The Historic Periphery The harbour town of Saint-Nazaire on the Atlantic coast of Brittany in northern France remains divided both by its memories and its built environment. Manuel de SolĂ -Morales describes how his Ville-Port project seeks to address the structural, visual and mnemonic divisions that have grown up over time between a working port and seaside resort.
Manuel de SolĂ -Morales, Ville-Port, Saint-Nazaire, France, 1998 Aerial view of the project intervention.
Saint-Nazaire’s tragic destiny during the Second World War was to leave two dramatic footprints: the almost complete destruction of the city by the Allies; and the submarine base built by the Germans as a refugee camp and arsenal in the Atlantic Front fortification plan from Burdeos to Brest. Situated at the Loire‘s estuary end, well known for its Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyards since the 19th century, Saint-Nazaire’s postwar reconstruction (the Maresquier plan) focused on a leisurebased beach/city centre relationship, as portrayed by Tati’s Monsieur Hulot character. The shipyards, even though relatively central in their location, thereby became peripheral to the uses of ordinary life. The Ville-Port project in Saint-Nazaire, drawn up in successive competition and execution phases between 1994 and 1998, and completed in 2001, aimed to defy this broken city–port link and peripheral perception with the introduction of new collective uses, both within the submarine base and on its roof. There are geographic peripheries that have given rise to the term ‘peripheral’, and there are historic peripheries, places that time and memory have pushed to the margins of daily life. Sometimes, the urban unconscious masks the areas that it doesn’t want to recognise, because they are inconvenient, muddled and filled with conflict. And yet these zones can be absolutely central to the topographic viewpoint. Just as there are ‘historic centres’, places that history has considered central, there are also peripheries constructed by history. History has thus turned the French port of Saint-Nazaire into a periphery: a history of memories of suffering and destruction, stemming from the effort required to rebuild the town after it was bombed during the war and from the presence of the submarine base, which is a concrete symbol of occupation and tragedy. There are also more recent histories of segregationist zoning in order to maintain the conformist banality of the beach, of industrial crisis at the legendary Chantiers de l’Atlantique, and of centripetal retreat in the face of growing suburban dispersion. The desire to tackle the periphery of the port again is above all an act of intelligence on the part of the town. It is a mark of awareness of the present and of superiority with respect to the past – a superiority based solely on respect and understanding. Identifying the periphery will signify assuming the hybrid condition of the space of the harbour, its vast holding capacity, and its docks as broad as its horizons, and establishing a controlled relationship at a distance with the centre of the town, one that retains the existing differences and the empty expanses as a pregnant expression of space. Voids on the ground and voids in space, voids even in use, a sense of waiting for things to come. Yet the obvious tension between monument and city, between a mass with a volume of 900,000 cubic metres (31,783,201 cubic feet) and a continuous and homogeneous town, but one constructed with a very low density, turns the apparent conditions of the periphery on their head. The new semantics remain on the margins, and the urban fabric appears to be no more than reassuring support for the mysterious presence on the industrial edge of the water. In fact, if we were to calculate the total volume of buildings in the central area (75 hectares/185 acres), it would come to 1,247,400 square metres (13,426,902 square feet), which does not amount to much more, altogether, than the enormous truncated pyramid of concrete. Intervening in such a spatial and psychological tension is a delicate operation, especially when one is a foreign architect, always well received but also subject to the perennial suspicion of insensitivity to local problems. The Ville-Port project proposes a system of new references in the port territory designed to involve the town and harbour in a new and more open, composite and active relationship. The references are, in the immediate surroundings, the empty spaces (squares, parking lots) between the centre and the military base; the ramp
Night lighting and reflections on the water basin.
Project masterplan. Implementation in Saint-Nazaireâ€™s urban fabric.
Longitudinal section and detail.
Ramp and esplanades to access the submarine base.
Parking and transparency through the submarine base.
Glass wall and transparency.
providing access to the roof of the base, with its incorporated buildings (hypermarket, housing); and the ‘atrium of the barber’ created in the transparent interior of the base (vestibule of exhibition halls, cinemas and restaurants). And, in the distance, involving this perimeter that delimits the base, the towers (both existing and new) that rise above the harbour and the reinforcement of the avenues that run around it, fusing the entire area into a structure that is both loose and strong. This is a structure of visual and functional relations that effectively mark a territory on the periphery, maintaining all the vitality of its industries (storage facilities, refrigeration plants, the manufacture of fishing nets and moorings), but mixing them with – just a few – regional and civic functions of recreation, culture and commerce. The twin access routes to the military zone, with its platform roofs and small cells at water level, are traces that, owing to their size, link the centre of the city to the open horizon of the harbour and estuary. All around, even though far away, the landmarks of the silos and high-rise buildings accentuate the extent of the empty spaces in between, and establish the scale and the new peripheral condition of the territory. 4
Night view of interior spaces.
Text © 2008 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images: pp 90(b), 91 © Manuel de Solà; pp 88, 90(t), 92-3 © Dominique Macel, Service du Communication de Saint-Nazaire
Nam Van Square, Macau A peninsula, lying 60 kilometres (37 miles) to the southwest of Hong Kong, Macau is the Las Vegas of the new China. As Manuel Vicente explains, when he was asked to create an important new public space for the city it provided the opportunity to create a plaza that was able to assimilate the past forms of the historic city without absorbing the symbolism of its colonial history.
‘Os cavalos a correr, as meninas a saltar …’1 After all the noise and excitement over Macau’s administrative transition settled down post 19 December 1999, the new local government was faced with the requirement for a new public square, distinctly postcolonial, not only from a symbolic point of view, but also and most urgently from a functional point of view: the inherited historical civic space was clearly inadequate, even in mere capacity terms, to harbour the collective rites and rituals of the new Macau. When VLB Arquitectura & Planeamento LDA were appointed to design the project, they immediately presumed that the main objective of the new administration was not to create a site condemned to the usual pastiche – either ‘Chineseness’ or ‘Palladianess’ – but instead to create the opportunity for something new: free of any symbolism though eager to pursue the hybridism of the urban form that consistently configured the city throughout the course of history. A new development plan for the central shore of the historic city – the Nam Van Lakes plan designed by Manuel Vicente throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, which interpreted and extended the curve of the historic bay out into the river and featured a culmination point in the form of a formal/functional roundabout at the meeting point of the two lakes – stood out as the irrefutable place for the new civic project. This was even more irrefutable given the immediate vicinity of the newly built Macau Tower, a quintessential modern and abstract structure, and a true icon with no connotations with the city’s past. Designing a public site requires recognition of a place prior and beyond the invention of its space. In the south, the creation of public space traditionally begins almost as a casual accident in the urban fabric, the poetic essence of which becomes, in the course of time, successively ascertained through the interplay and manipulation of hidden geometries waiting to be named. The values VLB proposed for Macau’s new Nam Van Square were mainly those related to the plural and diversified fruition of the site. From the core of the roundabout’s inner square, the formal hard-surfaced floor that represents the real foundation of the public space, one can walk through the series of familiar typologies that irradiate from it – esplanades, terraces, gardens, walkways and embankments – to the lake’s shore, along a path shaded by the traffic flyovers that form an important part of the design of the new civic square. Here the architects’ reconfiguring of the supporting structures as part of the new built landscape creates a show of different speeds and rhythms made by the conjugation of people and machines, simultaneously circulating, in a whole complex concoction pregnant with unsuspected urbanities. An urban park was commissioned two years after the square, as a simple landscaping of the access areas for the new (third) bridge to the outlying islands, in an adjoining stretch of causeway. This project organises two different park areas along the two waterfronts, each finding a design pattern to divorce itself from its proximity to the roads. On the lakeside, a sloping scenic garden with pools on different levels overlooks the city and transforms the over-imposing macro-presence of the bridge as a framer of views. And on the riverside, a children’s playground stretches along the water, like a palace in an Indian fairytale. 4 Note 1. ‘Horses are galloping.’
Overview of the Macau peninsula before the construction of the third bridge.
A flyover as shelter.
Plan of the whole territory of Macau, showing the water beds and major gambling investments (in orange). Nam Van Square is between the two western bridges. The reclamation between the two islands is the location of the new megacasino strip.
Map of the city of Macau showing the Nam Van Lakes reclamation scheme and its integration within the historic Praia Bay. Nam Van Square is shown at the intersection of the two lakes and the river.
The points of intensity in the design are concentrated on the transition of levels and the transfer from road to public space structures. The flyovers were developed as two-sided objects: the traffic disappears when viewed from the lakeside, and flies by when seen from above.
View towards the lake. The landscape areas bind the different levels and functions.
The curved complexity transverses different levels.
The modelling of the floor, which creates an organic movement along the lake shore, provides a means of simultaneously alienating and integrating the massive presence of the pre-existing bridge flyovers.
General plan for the urban park under the third bridge.
Macau, located on the South China coast, was a Portuguese-administered enclave from 1557 until 19 December 1999: the date when it was returned to the People’s Republic of China, thus becoming the Special Administrative Region of Macau. It comprises the peninsula of Macau and two islands, a total area of 24 square kilometres (9.3 square miles), up from 14 square kilometres (5.4 square miles) 20 years ago. The liberalisation of the territory’s gambling industry in 2002 was the political milestone that triggered an immense leap in the city’s urban development, with the ambition of moving away from a South China nostalgia into a regional economic player. Macau’s architectural legacy is the fruit of a symbiotic confrontation of Portuguese city-making praxis against a matured local Chinese social context and modus facendi. Its geopolitical status, between China and the Asian archipelago, has historically been a place of miscegenation and deviation, which has produced in the architectural field a culture of typological hybridism. Text © 2008 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images: p 94-5 © Macau Information Bureau; pp 96, 98(t), 99(r) © Rui Leão, Carlotta Bruni and Manuel Vicente, photos Carlotta Bruni; pp 97(t&c), 99(l) © Rui Leão, Carlotta Bruni and Manuel Vicente; p 97(b), 98(b) © Rui Leão, Carlotta Bruni and Manuel Vicente, photo www.almosterstudio.com
Mur Island, Graz, Austria The New York artist Vito Acconci has chosen to work through architecture, seeing the potential of it as a medium to engage ‘the public with the world around them’. He explains why he believes the location of his highly successful cultural centre for Mur Island, Graz, in Austria missed the opportunity to rejuvenate areas of the city beyond the historic core.
Acconci Studio, Mur Island, Graz, Austria, 2003 The dome functions as a café/restaurant. It is entered from above, on to a terrace, or from below into the restaurant/bar area. A canopy above the lower entrance twists down to create lounge seating around the edge of the dome.
This floating island for the 2003 European cultural capital included an open-air theatre, a small café and children’s playground. The selected site, which was chosen by Graz 2003, the organisation behind the initiative, was the River Mur, which runs through the Austrian town. This choice of site was determined by its proximity to the town’s bridges, the town centre and the planned Peter Cook and Colin Fournier’s Graz Museum (now completed). Acconci Studio’s own preference would have been for a different location, away from the existing bridges and the urban centre. This would have allowed for an alternative strategy to be pursued, which provided an additional river crossing on Mur Island at a point where there are currently no bridges, and would have rejuvenated a quieter part of the city and provided an alternative cultural area to that which already exists in the historic core. In this sense, it would have acted as a device for drawing activity beyond the established city confines, without tying into existing public spaces, and allowed the island as a public, collective space to function independently of the continuous urban fabric. Temporality was never much of an issue during the design process; the studio was always aware that if the island drew people in significant numbers it would endure beyond 2003 when Graz was European Capital of Culture, which it assumed, and very much hoped, would happen. The greatest consideration was put into the river context with its water and tides and floods; anchoring the island to the bottom of the river allowed it to respond to the rise and fall of the changing tide. As with other projects, Acconci Studio is interested in engaging the public with the world around them, the world they are in. They are involved with design and architecture because design allows the possibility of dealing with (at least some of) the occasions of everyday life. Architecture, contrary to art, is oriented towards users rather than viewers: design and architecture deal inherently with participants and inhabitants. 4 A twist in the river, a node in the river, a circulation route in the middle of the river which is an island: the island is a dome that morphs into a bowl that morphs into a dome.
Plan of Mur Island. Where the dome morphs into a bowl, and vice versa, a playground is formed by the warp. This in between space is a threedimensional grid that functions like monkey bars, a field to climb up and crawl through and hang on to. In addition, there is a slide that cuts through the grid. Text © 2008 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images: © Acconci Studio, photo Elvira Klamminger; © Acconci Studio, photo Harry Schiffer; © Acconci Studio
The bowl functions as a theatre, and is lined with transparent bleachers made of grating or perforated metal that step down to the stage below. When not being used as a theatre, the bowl functions as a public space, a plaza, in the middle of the river. Each line of bleachers waves in and out, and expands and contracts, thus instead of sitting facing straight ahead, visitors can sit face to face and enjoy everyday conversation.
Architecture and Dispersal To close the issue, guest-editors Rafi Segal and Els Verbakel curated a discussion with Stan Allen, Margaret Crawford, Marcel Smets and Sarah Whiting, and put some provocative questions to them: What constitutes public space in the contemporary city? Can the public sphere still exist in the urban context? Should public space be fought for by architects and urban designers? Or, as Allen proposes, is it the landscape architects alone who have been quick to realise the potential of the empty spaces in our cities as a ripe terrain for change?
Stan Allen: I think to start with we need to be sceptical of this vague notion of ‘public space’. Public space is a concept that is on the one hand hardly ever defined with any degree of specificity, and on the other never questioned as to its value. That’s a dangerous combination. We think of the traditional city as the locus of public space, but what do we mean? It is worthwhile to look at the traditional city, historically, and ask what was the notion of public space, what and where are these public spaces, squares, markets, etc, and how are they used? We would find that each one has a very specific and often very different pattern. If we look specifically at the
American city, as Robert Venturi pointed out, the romantic notion of the European piazza (as the emblematic public urban space) is something that never really existed in the American city. So, with full awareness that I am treading on a sacred icon (public space is like motherhood or apple pie, it can’t be criticised), I would start by signalling my scepticism about the concept as it is usually evoked – especially in the American context. In my view it’s more important to think first about publics, in all their specificity and multiplicity, and then look at their spatial practices. This notion of spatial practice derives from Michel de Certeau’s, who also elaborates a distinction between space and place. Space is an abstract notion that acquires specificity in relation to specific practices. ‘Place,’ writes de Certeau, ‘is practiced space.’ So you would almost have to ask the question: What are the spatial practices that could activate this abstract notion of public space? We can talk about those spatial practices that create the potential for public places. In the larger sense, another interesting thing about de Certeau’s views is that he has a faith in the collective creativity of subjects, in their tendency to invent ways to use the spaces that are given to them. You could argue that the traditional notion of public space is a kind of top-down argument whereby public space is ‘given’ to the public. I would turn that equation around to say: How does the collective create public space with the spaces that are given/found? This means that the role of the architect is to make a space for that public – to create the conditions where the public can
Paola Viganò, Landscapes of Water, Veneto, Italy, 2006
Architekt Daniel Libeskind AG, Westside, Berne, Switzerland, due for completion 2008
Many agree that the notion of the urban and public are intertwined: that is, we cannot conceive of the urban without a conception of public space. Yet in the current reality of urban environments at low densities, the interdependence of urbanity and public space as we know it can be questioned. The concept of public space enables the architectural profession to go beyond the sole service of the private sector, beyond the whims and particular desires of the individual client, and directly engage in giving shape to public life. Architects here become ‘interpreters’ of the public ‘good’ – their client being the ‘public’ itself, they act on behalf of the collective interest. Can urbanity exist without the production of public space or vice versa? And, in parallel, can architecture as a profession give up the role of designing for the public?
freely exercise its collective creativity. It’s for this reason that I’ve always been suspicious of the attempt to overscript the use of public space. For me, a successful public space is precisely a space where something unanticipated happens. So the job of the architect becomes calibrating the right mix between specificity, imagining and projecting potential uses into the space, creating the right measure, understanding flow and access, while always leaving some noise in the system, a degree of ‘play’, that allows for the unexpected. The architect’s job is to create spaces with potential. That potential is in turn activated by the way in which the space is put to use – put into play – by the public itself. There is an important paradox that has been articulated by Michel Foucault, who has pointed out that there are architectures that constrain freedom and free expression, but there are no specifically ‘liberating’ architectures. ‘Freedom,’ writes Foucault, ‘is a practice.’ In this sense it can be given space, but it cannot, by definition, be dictated from above. I don’t see this as a problem for architects, but rather quite the reverse – it means that our job is not to script spatial practices, but rather to create the precise architectural conditions where those practices have the best chance of survival.
and administrative centres are moving away from the centre based on a false idea of efficiency. The main square that used to host political demonstrations is now only a place for entertainment and tourism. The flocking together of programmes such as sports, education, etc causes urbanity to disappear. Collective space gets to be pre-coded if not privatised.
Marcel Smets: The classic answer would be that the church square no longer works, since people no longer go to church. Public space has become a ‘telanovela’, an individual yet shared experience. In each type of urbanity, places that are shared can be considered public spaces. Whether this is necessarily a highly concentrated space can be questioned. Even in high densities we see a tendency for isolation. In a certain way, we are talking about places where we frequently spend time, spaces that touch and connect people with other people, from cemeteries to recreation places, sports fields, transport locations, etc. ‘Public’ space does not disappear but multiply, it loses its hierarchy and has become more temporary, for example in the form of events and festivals. Cities are now concentration points in urban nebulae. Places of gathering that used to be associated with city centres are splintering. In Flanders, this has created a new type of city centre where recreation is the only urban activity left. In many Flemish towns, even civic services such as post offices
Sarah Whiting: Lament-drenched, post-lapsarian narratives about a lost public sphere that needs to be ‘recovered’ appear to have wormed their way even into AD. These sentiments invariably feed futile ‘retrieve and recover’ missions that share success/failure rates with other contemporary missions based on myths. The public sphere in the US has, from its inception, been tied as much, if not more, to business than to its presumptive origin in government or some variant of public organisation. As much as we may want to believe in the altruistic alignments of public space and public agency, now more than ever the public sphere invariably finds easier alliances in private partnerships than it does in public policy. Bottom Line Public Spaces (BLPS) dot the entirety of American urbanism and are very likely the only hope for public space that we will see in the near future. The American urban landscape, beginning with Daniel Burnham’s Chicago Exposition of 1893, the Washington DC MacMillan Plan of 1902 (also designed by Burnham), or beginning even earlier with the nation’s land surveys and acquisition policies, has long been directed primarily by monetary concerns. While colonial cities such as Savannah were organised so as to create miniature cities within a city, each centred on a public green, the incentive for cities planned after independence has arisen from the private sector, illustrating John Locke’s observation of 1690 that: ‘The great and chief end, therefore, of men’s uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property.’ In short, the space of the American urban landscape – urban, suburban, dense, or not – utilises the delineation of property ownership as its base map. This fact simply cannot be avoided when discussing public space. The privatisation of public space finds a willing accomplice in programming – in the definition, organisation and construction of what happens in that space.
Manuel Vicente, Carlotta Bruni and Rui Leão, Nam Van Square, Macau, China, 2007
Manuel de Solá-Morales, Ville-Port, Saint-Nazaire, France, 1998
arquitectura 911sc, New Caracol, Ecatepec, Mexico City, 2007
MUTOPIA, Mikado Plaza, Ørestad Nord, Copenhagen, Denmark, 2005
But as the programming of contemporary life accelerates, the programming of contemporary public space cannot keep pace. Unlike Burnham’s Grant Park of 1909, a green and sandy strip between the city and the lake, Chicago’s recent Millennium Park is fully programmed with music, art, wildflower paths, skating and eating. It was easier to believe that we had a public sphere when we felt that we had time for it; now, without that time, we’re seeing how small that sphere may be. Accompanied by constant headlines such as ‘Is your child too busy? Make sure to schedule family fun time too,’ we are fast becoming a culture with no time or space, let alone public. The Center for Economic Policy Research, based in Washington DC, points out that the US is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacations, and that 61 per cent of workers in the US take less than 15 days vacation a year. If we drop the false narrative of an original, ‘pure’, wholly public sphere and accept that, at least in the American context, the public sphere is always very much intertwined with the private one and is being squeezed out of existence because of a lack of space and time to perceive it, the ensuing questions need to be retooled. How do we, as architects, foster new possibilities in the public sphere, particularly in the dispersed environments that are the focus of this issue of AD? Lamenting an absent idealised public sphere is futile. Starting from the status quo doesn’t mean selling out: given the public sphere that we’ve inherited – the American BLPS – here is what we need to do:
The fleeing of the public from the city, as described in this issue of AD by Bruce Robbins’ reading of Thomas Pynchon on the one hand, and Albert Pope’s analysis of changes in the organisation of settlements from grid to cul-de-sac on the other, raises questions about the relevance of previous forms and expressions of public space to contemporary culture and settlement patterns. Alex Wall seems to suggest that in Southeast Asia, the lifestyle shopping centre has the potential to become a model of a new type of public space. More and more we see the emerging of a wide range of collective spaces produced by a highly advanced private market. Their design and organisation is based on mechanisms of high profit, limited access and high security environments.
BOTTOM LINES: Give public space a bottom line. Let it make a profit. MASS MARKET: Multiply, multiply, multiply. Like Ladybird Johnson’s wildflower campaign, the small aggregates to create the large. And the large is just fine. STACK THE DECK: If lawns and asphalt are irresponsible, discover the new horizontal. MAKE A PITCH: Sell the public to the public. Let them speak, and give them a space to say it in. KNOW YOUR MEDIUM: To know your image is to know your public (even when it looks funny). LOVE YOUR SKIN: Revel in surfaces. Colours, textures, patterns … these are the plinths, frames and tones of public space.
How can architects develop new models for public space within dispersed urbanities? Can self-contained spaces with limited access be considered public? Margaret Crawford: There are many opportunities for producing public spaces within existing suburban landscapes. But, in general, architects know almost nothing about suburban life. Trying to understand how people live, work and interact in dispersed areas should be their first priority. They also need to acknowledge the enormous variety of dispersed urban conditions. In the US, suburbs can be rich or poor, close or far from a city, with or without a centre, to name just a few distinctions. To discuss, say, Montecito, a wealthy suburb of Santa Barbara, California, and working-class Medford, Massachusetts, outside of Boston as equivalent examples of dispersed urbanism does justice to neither. Although the diversity of suburban lives and circumstances demands specific strategies, still, there are several obvious types of sites that cry out for a little more public-ness. One is the ubiquitous strip mall. Home to virtually every suburban commercial function, from grocery stores to restaurants to local boutiques, the strip mall’s current form is a bar of programme surrounded by a sea of parking. Yet with a little tweaking it could become a public place. Add a piazza or town green, include some public functions (library, vehicle registration department, city offices), a coffee shop or café, close the bar
Els Verbakel, Elie Derman and Ward Verbakel, Image Quality Plan, Bonheiden, Belgium, 2005
Claudia Faraone and Andrea Sarti, Waiting Spaces/Intermittent Cities, Veneto, Italy, 2004
with two wings, and rearrange the parking. Voila! a new public/private place that would satisfy most urbanists. And without disturbing the mall’s necessary commercial functions. A beautifully designed strip mall? Why not? Other suburban sites whose public-ness could easily be amped up include schools (by adding functions, introducing after-hours uses or even commercial activities), existing but faded main streets (where, often, everyday commercial activities like supermarkets can enliven street life), or even monofunctional civic centres (whose lives can be extended beyond working hours with new public and private programmes such as theatres, sports complexes and parks). All of these transformations should acknowledge the realities of dispersed urbanism, such as the primacy of the automobile, by providing sufficient parking. But at the same time residents should also be offered alternative means of access by creating bicycle and pedestrian paths, and even well-designed bus stops. In dispersed areas, architects will have to give up their dream of fixed rail transit as a generator of public spaces. Buses are cheaper, more flexible, and with new forms of electronic scheduling can nearly reproduce the door-to-door capacities of private automobiles.
shared by equally minded users. This is the kind of urbanity we should strive for, rather than the increasing cocooning of privatised public space, a pseudo-urbanity that has been fixed ahead of time. For example, walking in Manhattan it is surprising how the New York University compound has become so much more predictable than it used to be. All the ingredients of a university campus have been provided, the menu of a ‘nice neighbourhood’. To a certain extent, design is always running behind the fact, but it can also be a confrontation. Not everybody finds the current developments that interesting; they can be comforting yet not challenging, and in parallel there exist microworlds that are more interesting. As designers we have the responsibility to make people imagine and realise that beauty can lie in very small things. The scene in the movie American Beauty, where the camera follows a plastic bag flying in the air, is extremely fascinating yet also very depressing. Our perceptions have become private experiences, while the public sphere requires the sharing of experience. As designers we can draw attention to small, shared experiences of beauty, unexpected, multilayered, accessible. We can work with micro-interventions and lost spaces that function as implants, teasing and provoking the current state of terrifying banality. How else to operate than in the margin? Large projects are today managed by developers who work according to the stereotypical representations and expectancy patterns of their users. Nevertheless, architects can challenge these expectations and strive for a surprise effect. In the current boredom of banality, this kind of approach is very much needed.
Marcel Smets: To turn this question around, the government could play a more active role in increasing accessibility to public spaces. As architect to the Flemish government, I myself make an effort to raise awareness about making collective spaces more accessible. On the other hand, the Roman forum or the Greek agora were also never fully accessible and we should be careful not to fall for a myth. The space of infrastructure is usually accessible for all, although not always equally. After all, the space that does not belong to anyone is potentially the most public. The street, the anonymous main street, rather than the neighbourhood street, can be seen as public, where beggars and homeless walk side by side with inhabitants and visitors. Although there are many mechanisms that make claimed spaces such as supermarkets more multivalent, unclaimed space seems to offer more possibilities. In Brussels’ 19thcentury belt we can find examples of unclaimed space, where a more layered collectivity can take place, not only
In several projects presented in the issue, we can identify attempts of the urban plan to employ landscape as an active urban force that can give meaning to otherwise loose, neglected voids within the larger low-density environment (for example, in projects such as the Philadelphia Urban Voids competition, Bonheiden, Belgium, and El Caracol in Mexico City). Research projects such as the work of Paola Viganò and Bruno De Meulder suggest that whole geographic regions and landscapes be read as one continuous space layered with different systems/networks. Other projects (such as KMar and Mikado) incorporate the landscape feature
Vito Acconci, Mur Island, Graz, Austria, 2003
Martha Rosler, Oleanna/Utopia Station, Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy, 2003
as an integral part of the urban thinking, and experiment with the non-built as a generative element. Temporality and transience, traditionally attributed to nature and ecology, have now become an important aspect of designing public spaces in dispersed environments. Several projects propose a non-permanent approach to design, working with users and inhabitants (for example those by MUTOPIA and Claudia Faraone) or provide options for future changes (Timescape and the Urban Voids competition).
Time as much as space should be a key component of this new discourse. As Robert Fishman has argued, life in the new dispersed city depends on time as much as space. Thus, adding a temporal dimension to design in the suburbs should not be viewed as a compromise, but as an amplification of possibilities. In the suburbs, public experiences, rather than existing as fixed points in spaces, accumulate over the course of the day and night, week and weekend, winter and summer. The challenge for designers is to weave more of these public moments into the built and unbuilt fabric of dispersed urbanism. Again, this would require them to acquire a deeper knowledge of the circuits and cycles that constitute suburban lives. But I am convinced that paying close attention to the successive events of suburban life can produce new and unexpected ways to experience public life.
Can strategies of landscape design offer new approaches for designing public space in environments of urban dispersal? Is this an indispensable compromise of the dispersed city? Can public space only exist temporarily and then again disappear? Marcel Smets: Both landscape and infrastructure are in the process of acquiring new roles within the contemporary urban condition. The flocking together of similar programmes and activities creates a highly developed system of connections that can receive a new meaning as public space. Landscape, on the other hand, becomes very much related to the question of identity. Much of the built space starts to look similar, which makes landscape into a place of identity. At the same time, landscape has become a place of escaping the predefined. For example, the festival emerged as an attempt to break out of the theatre into the landscape. A promise of continuous change can now be found in the landscape. Landscape offers an ‘unclaimed’ territory, and therefore possibly a new type of public space. Margaret Crawford: Landscape architects, used to dealing with open spaces, are clearly more adept than architects who are obsessed with filling space, in working with dispersed urban conditions. Landscape architects can design parks, parking lots, subdivisions and roadsides, all staples of the dispersed landscape. In fact, trees, gardens and green spaces of all kinds are among the suburbs’ primary attractions. This suggests that we are urgently in need of a new discourse of ‘landscape suburbanism’.
Stan Allen: Landscape architecture – or what has come to be called ‘landscape urbanism’ – is an absolutely key term to bring up when you talk about dispersed cities. The attraction of landscape urbanism is that it offers a new set of tools to be deployed in the design of the void spaces, the so-called empty spaces, between buildings, roadways, infrastructure and what has been traditionally called landscape, but is today something beyond the mere design of gardens and parks. These tools – new ways of thinking and working – are ideally suited to this emerging dispersed field. As a discipline, in part because of its ‘minor’ status and lack of history, landscape architecture has the potential to become a kind of synthetic discipline that incorporates the insights of ecology, infrastructure and urbanism – landscape architecture is situated at the point of intersection between regional ecologies, infrastructure, open space design, architecture and urbanism. So landscape urbanism has already emerged as a serious field of study: it has a 10-year history, a number of recognised practitioners, a catalogue of projects, and its own literature (at least two well-conceived collections have appeared recently, for example). This is a very promising development, and it opens up a lot of interesting territory. It doesn’t seem accidental that the rise of landscape urbanism
Rafi Segal, Archipelago of the Negev Desert, Beer Sheva, Israel, 2007
Zvi Hecker, KMar, Schiphol International Airport, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2007
over time. This is based on a loose appeal to ideas of ecological succession. The idea that self-organisation and emergence are associated with lack of specificity and lack of design is itself a misunderstanding. What an ecologist will tell you, on the contrary, is that emergence does not happen all by itself, in a vacuum. It’s triggered by differences and imbalances in the initial conditions. In the urban or landscape realm, where we are talking about artificial ecologies, you don’t get emergence without very carefully designed initial conditions. The architect’s obligation to design those initial conditions with a high degree of precision and specificity remains.
parallels the emergence of the city as a dispersed field condition in the late 20th century. Recognising that attraction, I just want to point out three areas that, for me, constitute both the areas of greatest promise, but, paradoxically, the potential pitfalls of the landscape urbanism approach. It is possible to identify three key terms that have to do with the overlap and intersection between the discourses of landscape and architecture: Connectivity: It’s no accident that there is a parallel fascination in architecture and landscape for the surface. Surface is the territory of landscape, and there is an idea that the warped surface promises total connectivity, doing away with architecture’s vertical dimension, which has become associated with partitioned space. This is of course attractive but naive. It becomes easy to fall into a false utopia of total connectivity, continuous flows, etc. This suggests closer attention to breaks, discontinuities and separations – and their social/programmatic value – in both landscape and architecture. Indeterminate programme or multi-use: Here, too, there is this attractive idea that on an open field anything can happen – sports, festivals, demonstrations, concerts, picnics, etc. To my mind, it is something of an abdication of responsibility, a kind of loose thinking where it is possible to say, ‘Don’t worry about programme, there is no need for the architect to determine anything, because programme take care of itself.’ This approach can be seen analogous to the notion of 1960s universal space – a space, in theory, where anything can happen, yet where, as was often the case, nothing happens. The architect’s obligation to specificity and design remains. Emergence: In both architecture and landscape there has been a fascination with self-organisation and emergence, the notion that the architect supplies a kind of infrastructure and then you just let things happen
So for me, landscape urbanism is an important emerging field. What is interesting is that each of these areas has both an enormous potential and some room for error. It’s a young field where things are still in flux, ideas are still being worked out. That’s what makes it exciting. It has the potential to change our notion of urban design by making available a new set of tools and, above all, by foregrounding the question of time and the question of process. To my mind these are the real contributions of landscape urbanism. On the other hand, it is possible to look somewhat critically on the actual practices of landscape urbanism: most practitioners have been doing large-scale urban parks, they haven’t actually been doing urbanism. In part this is because the institutional realm – those who commission large-scale projects – have yet to catch up. Landscape urbanism is enormously promising, but we haven’t yet seen the full impact in practice. We are still waiting for projects that show a real synthesis of landscape and urbanism. 4 Text © 2008 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images: p 102(l) © Paolo Viganò; p 102(r) © Architekt Daniel Libeskind AG; p 103(l) © Rui Leão, Carlotta Bruni and Manuel Vicente, photo Carlotta Bruni; p 103(r) © Dominique Macel, Service du Communication de Saint Nazaire; p 104(l) © Jose Castillo Ólea, arquitectura 911sc; p 104(r) © MUTOPIA ApS; p 105(l) © Els Verbakel, Elie Derman of Derman Verbakel Architecture and Ward Verbakel Architect; p 105(r) © Claudia Faraone and Andrea Sarti; p 106(tl) © Acconci Studio; p 106(tr) © Martha Rosler; p 106 (bl&br) © © URBAN VOIDS: grounds for change City Parks Association of Philadelphia; p 107(l) © Rafi Segal; p 107(r) © Zvi Hecker
Contributors Acconci Studio is a collaborative studio that undertakes design and architecture projects. Stemming from Vito Acconci’s background in writing and art, the studio seeks to combine mathematical, biological and other models with narratives and action, using space as a fluid, changeable and portable instrument. Current projects include a retractable bridge in Boulognesur-mer and housing folded inside a hill in Beaumont, France. Stan Allen is a registered architect and Dean of the School of Architecture, Princeton University. His urban projects have been published in Points and Lines: Diagrams and Projects for the City (Princeton Architectural Press, 1999) and his theoretical essays in Practice: Architecture, Technique and Representation (G+B Arts, 2000). Responding to the complexity of the modern city in creative ways, he has developed an extensive catalogue of urbanistic strategies, in particular looking at field theory, landscape architecture and ecology as models to revitalise the practices of urban design. He has been awarded fellowships in architecture from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts, a Design Arts Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Graham Foundation Grant, and a President’s Citation from the Cooper Union in 2002. Jose Castillo is a practising architect living and working in Mexico City. He is the principal, alongside Saidee Springall, of arquitectura 911sc, an independent architectural and urban practice. His work and writing have been published in Praxis Journal, Bomb, Arquine, Architectural Record, 2G and Domus. He has curated and participated in various exhibitions including ‘Mexico City Dialogues’ at the Center for Architecture in New York and shows at the Rotterdam, São Paulo, Venice and Canary Islands biennales. He is currently a professor at UPenn’s School of Design. Margaret Crawford is a professor of Urban Design and Planning Theory at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Her research focuses on the evolution, uses and meanings of urban space. She has published several books including Building the Workingman’s Paradise (Verso, 1996) and, with Alan Berger, Nansha Coastal City (Harvard Graduate School of Design, 2006). She received a BA from the University of California at Berkeley, a graduate diploma from the Architectural Association, and a PhD in Urban Planning from UCLA. Bruno De Meulder is a professor of urbanism at Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven, Belgium, and the Technische Universiteit Eindhoven. He has published many books, including The Brussels Mont des Arts Reconsidered (Rotterdam, 2000), Nakuru: An African Town (Leuven, 1998), Kuvuande Mbote: A Century of Colonial Urbanism in Congo (Antwerp, 2000) and De Kampen van Kongo (Amsterdam, 1996). His research is situated at the crossroads of urbanism and urbanisation, and the crossroads of practice and theory. Elie Derman founded Derman Verbakel Architecture, with Els Verbakel, in 2001, with projects in Belgium, Israel and New York. He has taught architectural design at the Bezalel Academy, Jerusalem, New Jersey Institute of Technology and the Pratt Institute. He obtained a professional degree in architecture (Israel) and an MSc in architecture and urban design (Columbia University). He has won several awards for excellence in design and his work has been exhibited internationally. Claudia Faraone, an architect and urbanist, has participated in various architectural and artistic projects on the subject of cities and urban space, among them ‘Studio OpenCity’ in Brussels/Kortrijk (2000) and www.bordersproject.org in Venice (2003–04), and as tutor in the Advanced Course in Visual Art at Fondazione Ratti in Como (2006). She
is currently working on a research project on Skopje city centre as her final thesis for the European postgraduate Masters’ in Urbanism she attended at KU Leuven, TU Delft and UPC Barcelona.
He worked for several years with Architect Zvi Hecker in Tel-Aviv, and later established his own practice while also working in partnership with Eyal Weizman. He has lived in the US since 2004.
Zvi Hecker was born in Krakow, Poland, in 1931, and grew up in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. He studied architecture in Technion, Haifa, Israel, and painting at the Avni Academy in Tel Aviv where he set up the practice Hecker, Neumann, Sharon. He has taught at the Universite Laval in Quebec, Canada and Universität für Angewandte Kunst in Vienna. In 1991 he also set up a practice in Berlin.
Marcel Smets is the Flemish government architect. He received professional degrees in architecture and urban design from the universities of Ghent and Delft, and obtained a PhD at the University of Leuven where he was appointed to the chair of Urbanism in 1978. He has published widely, including books on H Hoste, Ch Buls, the Belgian Garden Cities and the reconstruction of Belgium after 1914. As a practising urban designer, he was in charge of large urban design projects in Belgium and Italy.
Deenah Loeb is the executive director of City Parks Association, a historic organisation whose work acts as a catalyst for change by advancing visionary thinking about natural resources in the urban community(www.cityparksphila.org). She has more than 25 years’ experience in programme innovation and implementation in the environmental field and the arts, and holds a Masters of Landscape Architecture. Kjersti Monson is a planner and urban designer with EDAW/AECOM, and is currently living and working in Atlanta, Georgia. From 2003 to 2006 she was based in Shanghai where she worked as a consultant and designer on projects throughout urban and rural China. She was a 2006 Fellow of the Fudan University Center for Urban Studies, and contributed to organising the Fudan University International Urban Forum in 2006. MUTOPIA was founded in 2004 by architects Serban Cornea and Kristina Adsersen, and has established its distinct profile through ‘user-focused design’, a working method and architectural strategy that challenges the role of the architect while welcoming citizens and professionals into the design process. This has spawned new types of dialogue and process tools, as well as a range of innovative urban and architectural designs promoting social and environmental sustainability. Albert Pope is an architect living in Houston, Texas. He has published and lectured extensively on contemporary architecture and urbanism. He is the author of Ladders (Princeton, 1996), and is the Gus Sessions Wortham Professor of Architecture at Rice University. Bruce Robbins is a professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University. He has also taught at the universities of Geneva and Lausanne, and at Rutgers University, and has held visiting positions at Harvard, Cornell and NYU. During the 1990s he was co-editor of the journal Social Text. His most recent book is Upward Mobility and the Common Good (Princeton, 2007). Martha Rosler uses photographs and montages, videos, text works, installations, performances and critical writing to investigate social conventions, the media, war-making and the built environment. She is a professor at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste (Städelschule) in Frankfurt and at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Andrea Sarti, an architect and photographer, currently works as a freelance in Venice. Within the collaborative and interdisciplinary studio www.cast1466.com he carries out commercial work as well as research projects dealing with city transformations and public spaces. He works with photography as a tool to describe and therefore to interpret the reality of cities and territories, and current projects include a visual one about public spaces in European capitals and the visual mapping of the transformations of Venice’s industrial area, Porto Marghera. Rafi Segal studied and taught architecture at the Technion–Israel, and at Princeton University where he is currently completing a doctoral dissertation.
Manuel de Solà-Morales is an architect and city planner, mostly dedicated to urban design matters. He is chair professor of Urbanism at the School of Architecture of Barcelona, and a founder and head, since 1968, of the Laboratori d’Urbanisme de Barcelona, a research group in urban morphology. Manuel Vicente has been working simultaneously in Macau and Lisbon for the past 45 years. His buildings in Macau, mainly the social housing schemes, are still a strong reference for Portuguese and Macanese architects. His design partnership with Rui Leão and Carlotta Bruni began in Lisbon, in the office of Trav do Noronha, while working on the pavilions and strategies for the Lisbon Expo 98. Their most significant projects include the Coloane Island masterplan, the renovation of the Moorish Barracks, UNESCO-WHS, Nam Van Square, the Sai Van Urban Park and, more recently, a project for the new opera house in Harbin, China. Els Verbakel founded Derman Verbakel Architecture, with Elie Derman, in 2001, with projects in Belgium, Israel and New York. She is a visiting professor at the Technion University and Bezalel Academy, Israel. She has taught architectural theory and design at KU Leuven, Columbia University, Pratt Institute and Princeton University, and has published widely. She obtained a professional degree in architecture (Belgium) and an MSc in architecture and urban design (Columbia University), and is a PhD candidate at Princeton. Paola Viganò is an architect. After her PhD (‘La città elementare’, Skira, Milan, 1999) she became an associate professor of urban design and urbanism at the IUAV, Venice, and a member of the board of the PhD in urbanism. She has been a guest professor in several European schools (EPFL Lausanne, KU Leuven), and in 1990 she founded Studio Bernardo Secchi Paola Viganò with Bernardo Secchi, working on competitions and projects such as the reuse of the disused railway area in Spoornoord, Antwerp, and the design of new housing in La Courrouze, an old military area, in Rennes, France. Alex Wall is an architect and Chair of Urban Design in the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Karlsruhe, Germany. His most recent publications include Victor Gruen: From Urban Shop to New City (Actar, 2005). He is also co-author of Zwischen_Stadt_Entwerfen (Mueller + Busmann, 2005), an attempt to define the components and design strategies for European low-density urban regions. Current research projects include SHAKTI – Research for the Sustainable Development of Hyderabad, India, and PRUDEV – What is the role of the shopping centre clusters in the future urban development of Jakarta? Sarah Whiting is an assistant professor at Princeton University’s School of Architecture where she teaches urban history and contemporary theory, and coordinates the Master of Architecture thesis programme. She is also a partner, along with Ron Witte, of WW, an architecture firm based in Princeton.
Interior Eye Reinvigorating Childhood Howard Watson
Unit Factor Radical Interface AA New Media Research Initiative Joel Newman, Theodore Spyropoulos and Vasilis Stroumpakos
114+ Practice Profile KieranTimberlake Associates Jayne Merkel
120+ Userscape Natural Methods of Interaction Or Natural Interaction in the Everyday Digital World Valentina Croci
124+ Spiller’s Bits Putting the ‘I’ back into Architecture Neil Spiller
130+ Yeang’s Eco-Files On Green Design (Part 3) The Basic Premises for Green Design Ken Yeang
134+ McLean’s Nuggets Will McLean
Howard Watson is uplifted by the ‘brave, graceful subtlety’ of Caruso St John’s redevelopment of the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood in east London. He finds the pared-down spaces of the interior surprisingly in accord with the original Victorian structure, drawing their inspiration from ‘the regimented order of grand Victorian museology’.
In the last decades of the 20th century, an appreciation that young minds can more readily accept the shock of the new drove parts of the museum sector to investigate using the advances of technology within child-orientated displays. It became a familiar sight to witness children banging buttons, touching screens and interacting with displays, while jealous adults would stand elsewhere, peering at a mistyped paper label beside a dusty, badly lit display. It would be tempting to expect the refreshed Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood to be an excessive den of bright lights, colour, computer wizardry and child-friendly chaos, but Caruso St Johnâ€™s fiveyear redevelopment has shied away from wearing whizz-bang intentions on its sleeve. It carries through the realisation of the museumâ€™s contemporary ambitions with a brave, graceful subtlety that draws on the regimented order of grand Victorian museology. They even dimmed the lights. Caruso St John was established in 1990 and has gained respect in Britain for its innovative arts-related buildings, such as the New Art Gallery in Walsall and the (ongoing) Centre for Contemporary Art in Nottingham. The architects have combined their ability to construct cultural permanence in sometimes unlikely settings with ground-breaking exhibition design, often resolving complex aesthetic ideas and a political will for community and cultural integration with
Caruso St John, V&A Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green, London, 2007 The main exhibition hall, comprising three sections with curved ceilings, is now uncluttered, with the original ironwork helping to regiment the space. The marble mosaic floor tiles were made by women prisoners in Woking jail and installed when the structure was relocated from South Kensington to Bethnal Green. The pattern has now been repeated and enlarged on the mezzanine ceilings.
The pattern of the front facade can be seen as building blocks, but the materials are exquisite. The variety of quartzite, porphyries and limestone draws on the red of the Victorian brick behind. The facade creates a new relationship with the community and geographical setting, highlighting accessibility and reflecting the street and greenery of the surrounding park through tall windows.
deceptively simple design solutions. The Museum of Childhood, which is run by the Victoria & Albert Museum, has been one of their longest-running projects, involving a twophase redevelopment of a Victorian building. It was constructed in 1856/57 by Charles Young & Company as a temporary structure for the new South Kensington Museum, which became the V&A. Formed in three parallel sections, it was a large iron building, with corrugated iron walls, iron columns and girders, and a glass roof. In 1865 it was replaced and the temporary structure was moved to Bethnal Green, an impoverished part of east London, at the request of local philanthropists. The museum resides beside a park, forming perhaps one of the best-kept examples of the Victorian desire to bring health and culture to Londonâ€™s poorer regions. The three parallel sections were not divided, so the museum principally comprises one large, almost tunnel-like volume, and the iron walls were replaced by typical Victorian red brickwork. JW Wild designed a new entrance and additional facilities, but his plans were never completed due to a lack of funds. Consequently, as a working venue, the museum has been dogged by its incompletion. The lack of accessible facilities has hampered its ability to move forward and offer the quality of community and educational resources that suit its remit. Meanwhile, the main exhibition space evolved somewhat haphazardly to become a charming, but cluttered and disorganised space. Caruso St John was faced with trying to create new access to resources and facilities under the building while refocusing the design of the main exhibition space and galleries.
When reorganising the main museum display system, architect Peter St John says he drew upon the best of Victorian museum architecture, including the original cases of the Natural History Museum. The museum is full of elements of physical interaction, but these are mainly pushed to the outer wall.
Section of the new entrance, creating a new level of accessibility to the facilities.
The charming but somewhat disorderly main display area before the redevelopment. The mixture of too much direct light from the roof lanterns and chaotic lighting has been replaced by an ordered system that enhances the objects.
The plan of the main hall, with its rearranged displays and improved circulation.
The cool, calm interior of the new entrance which, as well as refocusing the orientation to the facilities, provides an exhibition space for local children.
Diane Lees, the director of the museum, explains the success of Caruso St John’s designs: ‘The design of the new extension is sensitive to the original building and the materials are inspired by and blend with the historical context of the design. This has been combined with practical, inclusive design that has enabled a wide range of visitors to access the museum physically and intellectually.’ The first phase of the redevelopment concluded in 2003, including crucial renovation of the roof and ceiling, the reordering of the main display space and a new exhibition display area on the first floor. The second phase undertook the major building work – a new entrance and learning centre – as well as introducing a new gallery space and toilets, completing the design of new collection displays, and resolving access and circulation issues. The new entrance replaces its shambolic predecessor with one that addresses the immediate surrounds, visually connects to the design of the main building, and cures some of the prime logistical problems. The facade is clad in quartzite, porphyries and limestone in a decorative pattern that is emblematic of connection, community and outreach: each of the three components of one shape form a component of an adjacent one, while the overall impression is of building
blocks – a ‘constructive’ reminder of the learning processes of childhood. The simple entrance interior, with its granolithic terrazo floor, large windows and decorative grilles that pick up the pattern of the exterior, has a dual importance: it provides an exhibition display for the work of local children and an ordered circulation route into the main hall and, via stairs, down to the new learning centre and facilities below. There is now also a direct, accessible entranceway to these resources on the level below. Inside the main building, the chaos has gone. Formerly all white, the interior is now a soft, pale pink that calms the spatial threat of the huge main volume and creates a warmer environment. The ad hoc, evolved lighting that added to the disarray has been replaced by a neatly ordered system that complements the interior’s ironwork structure. Largely, the displays are now housed in freestanding, large wooden and glass cabinets that consciously draw on the museum’s Victorian past. The result is a natural grid, introducing order without partitioning. The redevelopment of the museum is not quite complete, but Diane Lees says that: ‘The project has “fixed” about 90 per cent of the issues we had in operating as a family friendly museum.’ Many of the late-20th-century interactive displays in smaller museums across Britain seem to be permanently ‘out of order’ or at least out of step with new developments. By contrast, the Museum of Childhood has managed to get itself in step with contemporary needs and prepare itself for the future through an intelligent, grand, but subtle approach to interior architecture. It has consequently won Caruso St John a 2007 RIBA Award. 4+ Howard Watson is an author, journalist and editor based in London. He is coauthor, with Eleanor Curtis, of the new 2nd edition of Fashion Retail (WileyAcademy, 2007), £34.99. See www.wiley.com. Previous books include The Design Mix: Bars, Cocktails and Style (2006), and Hotel Revolution: 21stCentury Hotel Design (2005), both also published by Wiley-Academy. Text © 2008 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images: pp 110-11, 112(t), 113(l) © Hélène Binet; pp 112(bl&br), 113(r) © Caruso St John Architects
KieranTimberlake Associates James Timberlake (left) and Steven Kieran (right) in their studio.
Nothing about the beautifully detailed buildings that Steven Kieran, James Timberlake and their colleagues are creating, mostly for schools and colleges, suggests that they have a radical agenda. There are no crazy shapes, dayglo colours or other attention-grabbing devices in them. But what these architects are doing in their built work, research and teaching attempts no less than to change the way that buildings are made. Jayne Merkel explains how they are expanding the architect’s sphere beyond mere ‘design’ to become ‘master builders’ of a uniquely 21st-century kind – developing new materials and ways to save energy, and introducing methods of collaboration and fabrication drawn from the automobile, aeroplane and shipbuilding industries. The pleasant, postmodernised old industrial building with little punched windows and a prominent central entrance where KieranTimberlake Associates work on an otherwise oldfashioned street gives no clue that anything extraordinary is going on inside. If anything, the location on the edge of downtown Philadelphia, near the Art Museum and Free Library, across the street from a neat row of 19th-century town houses suggests a rather traditional architectural practice. The first hint that something else is afoot comes when the elevator door opens to a lobby framed by sloping sheets of steel like those in a Richard Serra sculpture. Around the corner, a 2,137-square-metre (23,500-square-foot) open loft with 6.7-metre (22-foot) ceilings contains movable workstations, exposed wiring, models on pedestals, and conference areas formed by tilted steel walls with absorbent inner surfaces for pin-ups. But the space that reveals the unique nature of the practice is the shop at the end of the room, behind a glass wall. Here, tables stacked with models abut workbenches strewn with tools. Shelves are filled with product samples, such as autoclaved concrete, a porous white material the architects are considering for a house in Texas. Traditional materials being used in new ways are being tested alongside experimental ones, such as grey ductile concrete, a material that the architects are developing with Composite Technologies. Here, it takes the shape of an Ionic column and of bubble wrap. A full-scale freestanding wall of black glazed and brown buff brick being considered for the student
services office building at Ohio State rises from the floor. A ceiling mock-up for the Yale University Sculpture Building hangs overhead. In a small room on the right, a threedimensional printer transforms drawings into plaster models. Another little room with cement board walls houses a welder. There is also a compressor, a laser cutter, raw material racks, and exterior wall panels being considered for various projects. The office even has ‘a full-time shop director who was trained as an architect, but gets his kicks from making things’, as Timberlake explains. He and Kieran are pretty obsessed with making as well – in the largest possible sense. Their interest is in part a reaction to the emphasis on imagery that they saw at Venturi, Rauch and Scott Brown, where they worked in the late 1970s after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania architecture school. Just as Venturi was reacting against the Modernist disregard for symbolism and history, Kieran and Timberlake saw the lack of interest in building technology, which was typical of the time, as something they wanted to explore. In the 1980s they both had fellowships, independently, at the American Academy in Rome, where they found that what interested them most was the fabric of ancient buildings. As teachers (they have taught at Penn, Yale, the University of Michigan and other schools), they emphasise materials and the construction process, subjects often neglected in American architectural education. In addition, their firm’s first commissions – low-budget additions and alterations at
Loblolly House, Taylors Island, Maryland, 2006 This holiday home for the Kieran family on the eastern shore of Maryland, near Washington DC, is built of factory-made components that were hoisted into place on site, sparing most of the nearby forest. The aesthetic, which blends rather seamlessly into the landscape, demonstrates that prefabricated construction can also be ‘natural’, site specific and unique.
Sidwell Friends Middle School, Washington DC, 2006 KieranTimberlake’s expansion and renovation of a bland, boxy, modern brick middle school replaced an ugly mansard roof with a flat ‘green’ one, and a parking lot with two wings and a functioning wetlands courtyard. In doing so, it fostered a new commitment to environmental efficiency at this progressive day school.
Yale University Sculpture Building, New Haven, Connecticut, 2007 This 17,559-square-metre (189,000-square foot), $42 million project, which was built in 22 months instead of the university’s usual 48, consists of three separate structures: a four-storey, steel-framed, glass-walled studio building in the middle of the block; a single-storey art gallery around the corner; and a four-storey concrete parking garage for 280 cars with open steel and Cebonit walls and shops at the base.
Chestnut Hill College, East Stroudsburg University, Haverford College, and to a few houses – forced them to think about details and construction. Their first book, Manual (Princeton Architectural Press, 2002) focuses on various aspects of building (framing, hinging, joining, lining, patching, profiling, scaling, selecting, slipping and weaving). It provides numerous examples of different approaches to each category taken from their own work, often with a healthy dose of self-criticism. One example of ‘joining’ is the Melvin J and Claire Levine Hall, the new glass-walled home of the Department of Computer and Information Science at the University of Pennsylvania that connects several brick structures in different historical styles by stepping back and creating an additional courtyard. Carefully proportioned, transparent, ventilated curtain walls provide visual connections between the activity inside and campus life outside. An intriguing example of ‘patching’ is a row of brick privacy walls inserted between stone columns under low brick arches in the basement of Princeton University’s Stafford Little Hall, which was built by Cope and Stewardson in 1899 and 1901. While trying to decide which unusual brick pattern to use to
give student rooms more privacy, someone asked: ‘Why choose?’ So every partial enclosure is different from the next – a veritable museum of brick patterns that are differentiated from the existing surfaces and interesting in their own right. One of KieranTimberlake’s first major jobs at Yale – the renovation of Pierson and Davenport residential colleges – involved a good deal of hinging and patching and joining. The two building complexes, designed by James Gamble Rogers in 1930, consisted of dormitory rooms, libraries and dining halls (separate ones for each college) built around generous courtyards on the Oxbridge model. They are sheathed with stone and detailed in a Neo-Gothic style on the street facades, and made of red brick with Neo-Georgian shutters and classical colonnades on the inner courtyard sides, so there are some quirky contrasts even in the original fabric. The architects’ work involved converting the old dininghall kitchens (intended for waiters) to self-serve cafeteriastyle spaces, enlarging the study areas in the libraries, and connecting the two colleges underground to provide more types of recreational facilities to be shared by students of both colleges. Here they replaced old pipes, storage rooms
and squash courts (which all Yale colleges once had) with fitness rooms, a basketball court, music practice room, a theatre and cafés, combined the two pressrooms into one (all Yale colleges also had their own presses), and added recycling areas, a laundry and new mechanical services. The new underground spaces are naturally somewhat grittier than the formal ones upstairs, but the architects take the same delight in details and materials as their predecessors, using brick, stone, resin-varnished Fin-ply wood, concrete and steel with aplomb. Their masterpiece here is a pair of open concreteand-steel staircases leading in opposite directions up to the main living spaces of Pierson and Davenport colleges. KieranTimberlake’s is a nuts-and-bolts approach, but it does not prevent them from looking at the bigger picture. In order to learn what might be possible today, they used the American Institute of Architects’ first Latrobe National Research Prize to study how automobiles, ships and aeroplanes are now being made. The result of that research appears in their next book, Refabricating Architecture: How
Manufacturing Methodologies Are Poised to Transform Building Construction (McGraw-Hill, 2004). This fully illustrated, little black-and-white paperback argues that the time is right to fulfil the early 20th-century Modernist dream of mass production – only they call it ‘mass customisation’ because contemporary technology can offer numerous options. Today most parts of buildings can be built ‘off site’ (in a factory) faster, better and more safely than with standard construction. KieranTimberlake have demonstrated how this might be done in the most unlikely place – on the Pierson College ‘beach’, a leftover outdoor space where they created a new small courtyard and a wing of dormitory rooms with 27 beds, called TomKat Hall. These were prefabricated in New Jersey, shipped to the site, and erected in four days during the spring break. The dark-red brick, gabled structure manages to nod to its historic neighbours while subtly proclaiming its 21st-century origins with clever downspouts, ‘fingered brick’ elastomeric sealed expansion joints (almost zippers) between components, and other details.
Yale University School of Art Gallery, 2007 The big, open, loft-style gallery, which connects to the sculpture studios by an underground passage, will be used both for professional exhibitions and for shows of student work. The glass walls of its corner ‘front porch’ facing the street can be opened completely to the outside during events. The building’s recycled wood walls relate to old houses nearby.
Melvin J and Claire Levine Hall, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 2003 The 4,181-square-metre (45,000-square foot) addition and 1,393-squaremetre (15,000-square-foot) renovation wedge new facilities for the Department of Computer and Information Science between the School of Engineering’s 1906 Towne Building and 1967 Graduate Research Wing, while opening up new campus paths (where parking and service spaces used to be) to the English Department’s 1912 Bennett Hall. Levine Hall’s innovative ventilated curtain wall saves energy while creating a desired sense of transparency because air circulates between the double-paned skin and the single-glazed interior skin. The project adds new laboratory space, faculty offices and an auditorium to the School of Engineering.
The firm’s research on the fabrication processes being used by the transportation industries convinced them that architects need to give up the typical top-down approach to ‘design’ because it usually limits their involvement, separates them from the building process, and cuts them off from advances in construction technology. They advocate a collaborative process that involves architects, contractors, materials scientists and product engineers, working together with computerised communication from the conception of a project to the end. Materials scientists are essential because Kieran and Timberlake believe in using the wide range of new materials available now. Many save energy, cost less, last longer and can be readily adapted to the off-site construction process, which is faster, more efficient, more accurate and not subject to the whims of weather. A holiday home that Kieran built for his family in 2006 demonstrates that it is possible to create something original,
unique and apparently indigenous entirely with factory-made parts. The Loblolly House is named for the loblolly pine forest into which it nestles almost imperceptibly – it stands on trunk-like stilts and is sheathed with irregularly spaced vertical strips of red cedar. Its fourth facade opens to Chesapeake Bay with accordion-folding glass walls and retractable translucent aeroplane-hangar doors that remain open on most summer nights. Few nearby trees had to be cleared for construction because, in only six weeks, the house’s prefabricated parts were hoisted on to a platform and set into a scaffold when they arrived from the factory. Whole rooms with ceilings, walls, windows, plumbing, electrical connections and lighting were set within 30-centimetre (12inch) deep horizontal sandwich panels made of plywood or cement board filled with ductwork. Horizontal panels contain insulation, vapour barriers and sheathing. Since the architects believe that buildings should have a lifecycle like everything else, the 204-square-metre (2,200-square-foot) structure was designed to be dismantled eventually. Most of its parts are recyclable. However, even if it is demolished, the Loblolly House may live on, since the architects are working with a developer on a mass-producable version. Like other American architects, KieranTimberlake have become increasingly interested in energy efficiency, but because they know a lot about building technology they are able to take this concern to a higher level than most of their colleagues. At the Sidwell Friends Middle School, an extensive renovation of and addition to a private Quaker school in Washington DC (where Chelsea Clinton was once a student), they replaced an old mansard roof with a functional ‘green’ one. Where a parking lot once stood, two new wings create a courtyard that both recycles waste water and serves as an outdoor laboratory. The buildings, which were sited to
TomKat Hall addition to Pierson College, Yale University, 2004 The new suite of rooms was built off site from manufactured components and erected on site in four days even though, because of the tight nature of the site, the modules had to be lifted over existing buildings from trailers in an adjoining alley. The site-built construction of the slate roof, interior finishes, porches, terraces and landscaping took another four months. The site, off a corner of Pierson courtyard, was formerly used for recreation and services.
Pierson and Davenport Colleges, Yale University, New Haven, 2004 and 2005 The two adjacent residential colleges were extensively renovated with new mechanical services, recreational facilities and small additions at a cost of $40.5 million each. The two are now connected underground where they share facilities. The architects demonstrate their love of craft and materials in the underground, back-to-back staircases.
maximise passive solar heat gain, were opened to natural light with glass-walled corridors along the outer walls and sheathed in recycled wood from wine barrels. They also have photovoltaic panels, high-energy pulse boilers, linoleum made from 10 different natural materials, and bamboo casework. The design has influenced the curriculum so significantly that herbs produced on the green roof are used in the dining hall, where organic food is now served, and the impact of the building on student health and mental acuity is the subject of a study by the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. The new Sculpture Building at Yale is equally innovative. It may realise more energy savings than any glass-walled structure in America, but in order to achieve this the architects had to make some pretty radical changes to the programme. Since they were required by the city to replace the parking spaces that had filled the site, university officials assumed they would build a parking structure in the middle of the largely residential block and locate the sculpture studios along the street on the west side. But that would have meant orienting the building east–west, even though a north–south orientation would provide ideal northern light and the opportunity to capture southern heat gain. So, KieranTimberlake placed the elegant, glass-walled studio building in the middle of the block and the open-walled concrete black parking structure on the street where it will have shops on the ground floor. They also opened the interior of the block with pathways in both directions leading to the studios, and pulled out the art gallery, which will be used by the other art departments too, so that it opens on to a pretty residential street around the corner from the garage. The gallery is sheathed in the same western cedar siding recycled from wine casks that the architects used at Sidwell, only here it is in horizontal bands with metal strips like those on barrels. The architects also gave the little building an abstract front porch, in a nod to nearby 19th-century houses with
clapboard siding and prominent porches, removing every other board on that corner for a more porous feel. The glass walls under the porch can be opened to the street for events. The gallery’s sidewalls bow out slightly. The 6.7-metre (22-foot) tall, single-storey gallery has exposed steel ceiling beams, and little light slits in the corners and at the edges of the ceiling under the functioning green roof. It is connected by an underground passage to the studios behind it, which have porches on several levels with big trees and other plantings on them. It is the high-performance studio building walls, however, that will set new standards for energy efficiency. Those on the south have exterior metal sunshades projecting from the wall surface, which has operable transparent triple-pane windows above 10-centimetre (4-inch) thick, Aerogel-filled translucent fibreglass panels with a subtle, almost Japanese, feel. Perforated black metal panelling on interior columns houses a displacement ventilation system that uses 40 per cent less energy than usual. Black steel ceilings in stairwells with larger perforations achieve a similar aesthetic that hovers between sculptural and industrial. Even the surfaces in the corridors – fibreboard varnished with urethane – are efficient, rugged and attractive at the same time. At night the building glows from within, lighting up the mixed-used residential and commercial area around it. By day, people passing by can glimpse the studios from the side yards of nearby houses and apartment buildings. The complex extends the activity of the Yale campus into a mixed-use area that could use some new energy and sets a new standard for building at Yale. That is, after all, KieranTimberlake’s goal: raising the bar aesthetically, technologically, environmentally and socially – not a small ambition. 4+ Text © 2008 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images: p 114(t), 115, 118(t), 119 © Ed Wheeler; p 114(b) © Barry Halkin; pp 116-17 © Peter Aaron/ESTO/VIEW; p 118(b) © KieranTimberlake Associates
Natural Methods of Interaction Or Natural Interaction in the Everyday Digital World Computers, mobiles and automatised machines are so omnipresent that the means by which we interact with digital devices is now generally regarded as a given. Italian practice iO Agency, though, questions our use of mechanised interfaces and the language that they require us to learn. Valentina Croci explains how iO Agency has developed more natural ways for people to interact with digital environments through physical or tactile ‘triggers’.
iO Agency, iOO Design, 2006 iOO Design is a series of products developed in collaboration with the 3M Corporation, which includes iOO, a system of interactive projections, of which only 100 examples were produced. It is composed of a ceiling-mounted unit that generates an interactive projection on the surface of a table. To interact with the projection, all one has to do is move one’s hands above the surface, without touching it.
iOO can be applied to the horizontal surface of a carpet. The user can personalise the background image and patterns of movement of the figures (speed or effects of movement) using very simple software installed on a home computer. The user can also periodically update the contents, varying the atmosphere and colour of the spaces. Interaction requires no specific technical skills.
Interaction between digital tools and those who use them is generally managed by graphic interfaces, for example the computer screen, handheld devices, mobile phones, or even the display screen on automated ticket machines. These interfaces use methods of interaction based on an analytical language composed of icons and access panels, such as keypads, buttons or a mouse. The resulting manipulation of information is not direct, but requires that the user adapt to a language that differs from the way in which we relate to other objects in the physical world. The fact that the user must adapt to the language of the machine often generates frustration, creating a barrier between the user and technology. Given the increase in the number of digital instruments in everyday spaces, we must design new methods of interaction between users and technology. An example of this approach can be found in the work of the Italian office iO Agency, founded in 2004 in Treviso with the aim of developing interactive spaces. The office now has 22 associates, many of whom were involved in the ‘Net Economy’ (the virtual arena in which business is conducted that emerged in the mid-1990s), in addition to boasting a collaboration with the Centro di integrazione dei media (Media Integration Centre), part of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Florence. One of the centre’s members, Alessandro Valli, is also one of the founders of iO Agency and the theorist, in 2001, of the concept of ‘natural interaction’, a form of interaction between
users and technology-enhanced spaces that is based on the imitation of reality and common gestures. Here, actions such as walking, touching or pointing become the ‘triggers’ of the digital system; the user, unlike with traditional media, is not required to learn how the machine functions. This creates an immediate relationship between the user and digital technology, the result of the direct manipulation of the latter by the former. Given that the user carries out familiar actions, his or her attention passes from the process of using digital technology to the experience that it can generate. The approach taken by iO Agency is different from that taken by other offices involved in the creation of digital installations or interactive objects. iO Agency’s final objective is the creation of spaces in which technology is integrated with the everyday, part of an environment in which digital instruments dialogue with one another. With respect to other digital installations, the projects by iO Agency do not seek the complete immersion of the user within altered or exasperated sensations, removing their attention from the sensorial experience in favour of the effects of the digital environment. Each project is calibrated based on the functions it is to perform – conferring information or, more simply, decorating an environment – and based on the number of people who will use it or a specific target of users. For iO Agency, natural interaction takes place through a process that involves the simplification of possible operations,
iO Agency, Installation for the New Fiat 500, Cappellini Temporary Store, Milan, 2007 Three months before the launch of the new Fiat 500, iO Agency was asked to design an installation that would represent the car without actually presenting the physical product. The office designed a series of workstations that visitors could use to configure a version of the new Fiat 500 and, later, view it at 1:1 scale inside a dark room. The system also simultaneously created a personalised brochure of the car. The installation focused on the effect of surprise and the shared, playful experience enjoyed by a group of people.
iO Agency, Sensitive Space System, Milan, 2005– The Sensitive Space System is a range of products developed in collaboration with the 3M Corporation and designed to create three-dimensional interactive spaces for retail and advertising spaces. At the Italian headquarters of 3M it is possible to visit their showroom: a space with translucent walls, the colour and intensity of which can be modulated and used to project interactive displays. The space also includes an interactive floor surface. The final objective of the showroom is that of demonstrating, via the exaggerated symbolism of interaction, the various methods of accessing digital content.
Sensitive Space System objects include devices connected to a central system that unties their various operations. The catalogue also includes ‘touch-less’ products such as this information stand, which provides a gallery of images accessed through visual, and non-analytical, interaction.
Another of the Sensitive Space System devices is the interactive 3M catalogue. The interface-display was designed to be used by the company’s sales staff who are accustomed to reading a catalogue of products based on an index similar to a periodic table. The semantic nature of the interface, the gestures used to indicate products and the movement of elements on surfaces are natural movements for this category of users.
Part of the modular concept designed for L’Oréal, the Colour Studio is an instrument of support for the sales of haircolour products. Sales clerks can use a handheld device or PC tablet to display the various colours being proposed on a video wall, turning a routine event into a spectacular and theatrical experience.
Modular concept for L’Oréal Professionel Salons, Cosmoprof Fair, Bologna, Italy, 2005 This environment was designed to support sales and track client behaviour. The project is articulated in four functional modules that can exist separately or as part of an integrated group: an interactive display case that allows passers-by to interact with L’Oréal products; a sales support station that uses bar-code recognition and projects interactive information about the product being purchased; a client management system that offers personalised suggestions for specific purchases; and the Colour Studio.
and the reduction of the number of actions that the user must make using the interface. The form of the instrument ‘attracts’ the user by clearly representing its function, while the interface makes reference to a precise number of gestures – point, move, grab or walk – connected to a precise operation performed by the machine. The interpretation of people’s behaviour and its reduction to ‘triggers’ that activate the system is a very difficult part of the design process: the technology must be able to distinguish between the actions of the subject and ‘background noise’. It is thus important to define the final objectives of the device beforehand, together with the sequences of accessing its functions. iO Agency does not produce standard products; its devices are partially manufactured elements with advanced levels of engineering, capable of implementing serial applications based on a client’s needs. For the definition of products at the industrial scale, iO Agency works with external partners; for example, the 3M Corporation, with whom they collaborated on the design of the range of Sensitive Space System products. Their partially manufactured products operate based on the logic of uniform interaction. However, the definition of the interface and the functional specifications are calibrated for each single application. The final objective of these devices is that of introducing new services within everyday spaces. Digital applications do not replace traditional computerised objects, which employ metaphors (the desktop or the operating system) that are held to be satisfactory for the functions that they must perform. The applications created by iO Agency identify alternative and more emotional forms of logic that allow for a greater level of intervention on the form of space and the perception of the quality of a given environment. This type of interactive object, or better yet, a space filled with integrated, interactive
elements, allows for the construction of a richer experience that leads, in turn, to new design possibilities, above all for public spaces or spaces of social interaction. iO Agency stresses that the design of interactive environments within the spaces of the everyday is not only related to the engineering of digital technologies, but also to the creation of a synergic process involving architects and designers. The introduction of this type of digital technology can sensibly modify the atmosphere of a given space – as in the case of the Sensitive Space System, for which iO Agency studied the possibility of simultaneously modifying light, sound and the emissions of odours using interconnected interactive objects. The design challenge for interactive spaces is not simply the creation of temporary installations with a significant impact, as much as the development of applications for everyday life, inserting, within our everyday habits, interactive methods of using space and alternative mechanisms for accessing services. Thus, as iO Agency points out, the design challenge is to be found, on the one hand, in technological innovation and, on the other, in the maturation of a new culture that is interested in this research. 4+ Translated from the Italian version into English by Paul David Blackmore Valentina Croci is a freelance journalist of industrial design and architecture. She graduated from Venice University of Architecture (IUAV), and attained an MSc in architectural history from the Bartlett School of Architecture, London. She achieved a PhD in industrial design sciences at the IUAV with a theoretical thesis on wearable digital technologies.
Text © 2008 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images: pp 120-22 © iO Agency; p 123 © L’Oréal Paris
Putting the ‘I’ back into Architecture Neil Spiller gets personal in a bid to put the ‘I’ back into architecture. He celebrates the spatial experimentation of the work of Charlotte Erckrath. Creating a space of desire, she produces a subjective ‘synthesis of architect, body, space and view’. So if digital design is so revolutionary, exciting and cutting edge, why does it all look the same – pretty though some of it may be? Is it because clients are very conservative and have just got around to managing to accept the double-curved in architecture? Certainly. Is it because architectural fashion often precludes the personal approach? Of course. Architects often deny themselves in their work – it is often apolitical and lacking in any but the most abstract references to the complex mind of its designers. I like ‘I’. I only know what I’m like aesthetically and intellectually; I don’t know what anybody else likes for sure. We are all different, you are different to me
Erckrath developed each element so that it could be rearticulated and reconfigured in relation to the viewer’s body.
and I am different to you, and this is great. I don’t believe in ‘Styles’. This can take on an almost religious aspect. In the last UK government census, something like 100,000 Britons declared themselves ‘Jedi’ in respect of their religion. If I were cornered I’d probably say ‘Radical Constructivist’. At the root of this Radical Constructivism is Giambattista Vico (1668–1744). A Neapolitan historian and philosopher, Vico was appointed by Charles III of Naples as his historiographer in 1734. The fundamental notion that makes Vico memorable is his ‘versum ipsum factum’ (‘the truth is the same as the made’). This idea was first published in 1710 in
The space of desire, the gaze and the body are not excluded from the work, as in the case of much contemporary architecture.
Charlotte Erckrath, Making the Idea: Subjectivity and Objects in SelfPortrait with Wife June and Model by Helmut Newton, 2007 The piece is produced by exploring boundaries, thresholds, points of view, parallax and the engagement of the viewer.
This is an anthropometric scaled, intimate project that cannot be separated from its architect. Here is a detail of one of the movable junctions, its geometries inscribed with further bodily syntax and vectors.
his treatise De antiquissima Italorum Sapientia. ‘As God’s truth is what God comes to know as he creates and assembles it, so human truth is what man comes to know as he builds it shaping it by his actions.’1 Cybernetic Radical Constructivists believe that there is no mind-independent reality and that an individual constructs his or her understanding of his or her world by observation and operating within it. It in turn is readjusted in the individual’s dealings with others and other world-views mediated by cybernetic conversation. Thus Vico is sometimes called the first Radical Constructivist. We all construct our view of the world as we navigate through it. This world is not the controlled, tame, acetic world of science. It is a world of experimentation, of near misses and of desire – a nomadic, expedient pseudo-science. So in this particular ‘Bits’ I would like to honour spatial experimentation, ‘I’ and the space of desire by introducing Charlotte Erckrath’s work. The inspiration of this piece is a photograph produced by Helmet Newton in 1981: ‘Self Portrait with Wife June and Models’. The photograph resonates back in time to Las Meninas of Velázquez, and its theoretical content was sketched out by Victor Burgin in 1992.2 Erckrath has identified the various modes of observation illustrated by
the picture and the act of viewing it. These are: The Spectator, The Photographer, The Mirror, The Voyeur and The Backdrop. She has then taken these ideas and included herself and her body in the act of viewing and interpreting in her architectural work. Perhaps unsurprisingly, her work can be seen in comparison to Duchamp’s Large Glass, but here are no illusions to masturbatory, vibrating bachelors divided from an unobtainable mechanised bride – no sexual binary opposites, more a personal synthesis of architect, body, space and view. This conclusion should be the aim of all architects and their work, and not the impersonal taxonometrically similar designs that so many of our profession perceive as inspired, earthshaking architecture. The earth never moves for me unless ‘I’m’ involved. 4+ Neil Spiller is Professor of Architecture and Digital Theory and Vice Dean at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London. Notes 1. G Vico, De antiquissima Italorum Sapientia, Stamperia de’Classici Latini (Naples), 1858, chapter I, 1:5–6. 2. V Burgin, ‘Perverse space’, in B Colomina, Sexuality and Space, The New Press (New York), 1992, pp 219–41. Text © 2008 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images © Charlotte Erckrath
Radical Interface AA New Media Research Initiative At the Architectural Association in London, Joel Newman, Theodore Spyropoulos and Vasilis Stroumpakos are spearheading the New Media Research Initiative. Here they call for architecture to abandon its hold on the formal qualities of the physical in favour of a mode of experience that provides an interface that fully reflects the way we inhabit space today.
Theodore Spyropoulos and Vasili Stroumpakos, Techne, AADRL Research Fellowship, 2002â€“04 These explorations, performed by Nick Puckett, were designed as a series of limitation devices that are integrated with dispersal software systems that become the testing ground for where we can turn these immersive technologies back on ourselves. The goal is that by doing these experiments on ourselves we can gain critical insight into our adaptive cognition while acquiring a tangible understanding of the sensorial.
In architectural and product design, physicality is still perceived as the main reference for judgement, while embedded 2-D design is treated as a secondary or subsidiary consideration, an addendum at best. This is the residue of an older paradigm in which structure is matter and fresco is decor. Although this was a reasonable mode of thought for the design of building in the past, contemporary design should adopt the mode of experience, the way that space is inhabited today. What you see is what you use. Interface is both function and performance, and the aesthetics of form and material are secondary. Function and Experience However, function does not have to be boring, and certainly does more than merely respond to route planning, or ‘go from A to B, but do not pass C’. Function in contemporary architecture is the creation of an environment of experience. Creating experiences refers to the real target of interface design: to generate new forms of engagement with information and communication; to excite the human intellect with new forms of interaction. This requires consideration and understanding of the complex aspects of perception and cognition. Interfaces have existed for a relatively short time, both in terms of scientific research and in public applications, and so they are a grand and continuing experiment. Form and Graphics When the iPod was released, Apple described it as the product the company was created to make, a device that could embody the company’s philosophy: the interface is the product. In the design of devices, the separation between the threedimensional form and the interface is under question. For a long time, devices such as mobile phones were judged
Thomas Chan, Interface Catalogue, 2007 Intermediate 6 student Thomas Chan (tutors: Veronika Schmid and Alistair Gill) designed and developed a comprehensive custom-made interface in Flash through which he could control and inform the 3-D modelling software.
During a design workshop at the AADRL, students were asked to develop limitation devices. One of the briefs was to design an instrument as a seeing stick for the blind.
primarily, if not exclusively, on the physical characteristics of the case. Shape, the appearance and feel of the materials, the practical and ergonomic parameters were all important. Interface rarely featured strongly in the design process or in the critical evaluation of the design. Today, with the introduction of a new generation of more complex devices such as Apple’s iPhone and the BenQ Black Box, interface has found its apotheosis in the new physical space of the screen. The interface is the new material, and the product is the interface, so contemporary design education ought to be prepared for that. The Experimental Web It is fair to say that the new level of interface design is not the exclusive result of one particular studio or company, but a logical progression of 10 years of experiment on the World Wide Web. Interface experimentation certainly did take place within labs and research centres, but many dedicated amateurs, smart kids and professionals alike were also deeply engaged and loosely hooked together by the Web. With the introduction of the internet, people started to create personal pages, driving the development of better and powerful software. Many pages were simply just people wanting to put forward their voice, their opinions and feelings to the world: writing about their likes and dislikes, showing photographs of their friends and families, creating an image of their lives and perspective on the world they live in. This continues today in the blogsphere. However, a small but growing number of users became more interested in the interface itself, leaving the content to evolve from the words and images of the Web population. Fascination with the new tools (Flash, Director, Java and later Processing) led this generation of dedicated amateur experimenters to contribute greatly to the evolution of user interfaces. Although this kind of work had been, or still is, characterised as Web or computer art by some, substantially it is rigorous research through experimentation.
Theodore Spyropoulos and Vasilis Stroumpakos, Facebreeder software/installation, Selfridges, London, 2004 and the AA, London, 2006 Fabricated by the authors and a group of DRL students, Facebreeder emerged as an aftermath of the Techne research fellowship.
Experimentation does not need to be beautiful, but rather an outrageous lack of compromise. Simultaneous experimentation by a multitude of people produces innovation through evolution. Radical interface design by innovators such as Yugo Nakamura, Joshua Davis, Ed Burton, Dextro, Lia, Martin Wattenberg, Jared Tarbell, Golan Levin, Zachary Lieberman and Ben Fry provides distinctive examples of direct and applied ‘research’ for architects working in computation. Their work defines a new understanding of interface design and screen-based interaction. They adopt extreme and radical modes in their engagement with experimental design, and the momentum that these types of
works has created affected, and still affects, a wide range of creative disciplines, including architecture. AA Method as Practice The Architectural Association (AA) is at the forefront in nurturing these approaches, and this is reflected in the formation of its New Media Research Initiative, which emerged through the continuous engagement of the school’s various programmes within the domain of interface. This takes place on three levels. First through the agendas of several studios in the undergraduate and graduate school, where student research undertaken at the AA Design
Dextro, Interactive applet, Architectural Association, London, 2007 Pioneer in contemporary computer art, Dextro, presented his work at the AA.
AA New Media Cluster Kick-Off Event, Architectural Association, London, 2006 Stelarc performs involuntary acts with student volunteers at a new media clusters launch event at the AA.
Research Lab (AADRL) and Emtech as well as undergraduate units such as Int 3, Int 6, Int 8 and Dip 14 clearly depicts a shift in the architectural design paradigm employing methods and concepts, but also developing approaches that blend digital interface with spatial and experience design. Second through research fellowships such as Techne that were developed by Theodore Spyropoulos and Vasilis Stroumpakos and led to projects such as the Facebreeder that engaged the AA community. And finally through explorations conducted in the Media Studies programme. The New Media Research Initiative aims to work as an umbrella for these engagements by reinforcing the interface dialogue: on the one hand by a series of events/talks including key speakers Stelarc, Dextro, Ed Burton, Zachary Lieberman, Christopher Lindiger and United Visual Artists that took place during 2006/07; and on the other by engaging with related projects such as the cross-programme event laptop-jam sessions promoting and presenting student work and staff research that responds to concepts of space as interface. 4+
Brian Dale and Luis Fraguada, CCdb project, AA New Media Laptop Sessions, London, 2007 The cross-programme event brings together interface-related student work from various departments of the school.
Joel Newman studied fine art at Reading University and has exhibited his work widely. He has run the AA’s audiovisual department since 1994, and teaches video-making. Theodore Spyropoulos is a co-director of the AA Design Research Lab (AADRL) in London. He is a visiting research fellow at MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies working with the Interrogative Design Group. He directs the experimental design practice Minimaforms, and has worked as a project architect at the offices of Peter Eisenman and Zaha Hadid. Vasilis Stroumpakos studied at the AADRL (MArch) and at AUTH in Thessaloniki, Greece. He is co-author of ramtv.org’s Negotiate My Boundary! He has been a research fellow at the AA and is currently part of the academic staff at the AADRL and AA Media Studies programme. He also runs the practice 00110.org. ‘Unit Factor’ is edited by Michael Weinstock, who is Academic Head and Head of Technical Studies at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, and also a visiting professor at Yale University and at ESARQ Barcelona. He is coguest-editor with Michael Hensel and Achim Menges of the Emergence: Morphogenetic Design Strategies (May 2004) and Techniques and Technologies in Morphogenetic Design (March 2006) issues of Architectural Design. He is currently writing a book on the architecture of emergence for John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Text © 2008 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images: pp 126, 127(t), 128(t&br) © Theodore Spyropoulos and Vasilis Stroumpakis; pp 127(b), 129(b) © Architectural Association; p 128(bl) © Theodore Spyropoulosz and Vasilis Stroumpakis, photo Sue Barr; p 129(t) © dextro.org
In the final part of his short series that outlines the main principles of ecodesign, Ken Yeang turns his attention to the alternatives that are on offer to designers who want to ensure comfortable internal conditions in their buildings. He covers the full gamut of choices and hybrids from buildings that are constructed in ‘passive mode’, without the need for any electromechanical systems, to those that are conceived in ‘productive mode’ producing their own energy.
On Green Design (Part 3) The Basic Premises for Green Design
Foster + Partners, University of Technology Petronas, Malaysia, 2004 The campus’ crescent-form roof responds to the climate of the Malay peninsula by covering pedestrian routes. It provides shade from the heat and shelter from monsoon rains.
Yeang’s Eco-Files Yeang’s Eco-Files Yeang’s Eco-Files
WOHAA Architects/Wong Mun Summ and Richard Hassell, Moulmein Rise Residential Tower, Singapore, 2003 Here the traditional monsoon window is adopted in a 28-storey, speculative housing block. This horizontal opening lets in the breeze but not the rain. It clearly demonstrates the potential of the monsoon window as an effective passive cooling device in a contemporary urban setting.
As designers we should be looking at ways of configuring individual built forms as low-energy systems, while also applying the same thinking to the operational systems of the greater built environment and our own businesses. In addressing these systems we need to look into ways of improving the internal conditions of our buildings so as to make them more comfortable. There are essentially five ways of doing this: passive mode, mixed mode, full mode, productive mode and composite mode, the last being a composite of all the preceding modes. The practice of sustainable design requires that we look first at passive mode (or bioclimatic) design strategies; then we can move on to mixed mode, full mode, productive mode and composite mode, all the while adopting progressive strategies to improve comfortable conditions relative to external conditions. Meeting contemporary expectations for comfortable conditions in the office cannot generally be achieved by passive mode or by mixed mode alone. The internal environment often needs to be supplemented by the use of external sources of energy, as in full mode. Full mode uses
electromechanical systems often powered by external energy sources – whether from fossil-fuel derived sources or from local ambient sources such as wind or solar power. Passive mode means designing for improved internal comfort conditions over external conditions without the use of any electromechanical systems. Examples of passive mode strategies include the adoption of suitable building orientation and configuration in relation to the local climate, as well as the selection of appropriate building materials. When considering the design of the facade, issues of solid-to-glazed area ratios, thermal insulation values, the incorporation of natural ventilation and the use of vegetation are also important. Building design strategy must start with passive mode or bioclimatic design, as this can significantly influence the configuration of the built form and its enclosure systems. Passive mode requires an understanding of the climatic conditions of the locality; the designer should not merely synchronise the building design with the local meteorological conditions, but optimise the ambient energy of the locality to create improved internal comfort
Yeang’s Eco-Files Yeang’s Eco-Files Yeang’s Eco-Files
Typical floor plan illustrating the location of the monsoon windows. The design addresses the challenges of the tropical climate by incorporating monsoon windows and the perforated wall, while establishing a relationship of different volumes to maximise air circulation.
conditions without the use of any electromechanical systems. The fundamental nature of these decisions clearly dictates that once the building configuration, orientation and enclosure are considered, the further refinement of a design should lead to the adoption of choices that will enhance its energy efficiency. If, as an alternative, a design solution is developed that has not previously optimised the passive mode options, then these non-energy efficient design decisions will need to be corrected by supplementary full mode systems. Such a remedy would make a nonsense of low-energy design. Furthermore, if the design optimises a building’s passive modes, it remains at an improved level of comfort during any electrical power failure. If the passive modes have not been optimised, then whenever there is no electricity or external energy source the building may become intolerable to occupy. In mixed mode, buildings use some electromechanical systems such as ceiling fans, double facades, flue atriums and evaporative cooling. Full mode relies entirely on the use of electromechanical systems to create suitable internal comfort conditions. This is the option chosen for most conventional buildings. If clients and users insist on having consistent comfort conditions throughout the year, this will inevitably lead to full mode design. It must be clear now that low-energy design is essentially a user-driven condition and a lifestyle issue. We must appreciate that passive mode and mixed mode design can never compete with the comfort levels of the high-energy, full mode conditions. Productive mode is where a building generates its own energy. Common examples of this today can be seen in the generation of electricity through the use of photovoltaic
panels that are powered by solar power, and wind turbines that harness wind energy. Ecosystems use solar energy that is transformed into chemical energy by the photosynthesis of green plants, which in turn drives the ecological cycle. If ecodesign is to be ecomimetic, we should seek to do the same; however, we will need to do so on a much larger scale. The inclusion of systems that create productive modes inevitably leads to sophisticated technological systems that, in turn, increase the use of material resources, the inorganic content of the built form, the embodied energy content and the attendant impact on the environment. Composite mode is a combination of all the above modes in proportions that vary over the seasons of the year. Ecodesign also requires the designer to use materials and assemblies that facilitate reuse, recycling and their eventual reintegration with ecological systems. Here again we need to be ecomimetic in our use of materials in the built environment: in ecosystems, all living organisms feed on continual flows of matter and energy from their environment to stay alive, and all living organisms continually produce ‘waste’. However, ecosystems do not actually generate waste since one species’ waste is really another species’ food. Thus matter cycles continually through the web of life. To be truly ecomimetic, the materials we produce should also take their place within the closed loop where waste becomes food. Currently we regard everything produced by humans as eventual garbage or waste material that is either burned or ends up in landfill sites. The new question for designers, manufacturers and businesses is: How can we use this waste material? If our materials are readily biodegradable, they can return to the environment through decomposition. If we want to be ecomimetic, we should think, at the very early
Yeang’s Eco-Files Yeang’s Eco-Files Yeang’s Eco-Files
TR Hamzah & Yeang Snd Bhd (a Llewellyn Davies Yeang, UK, sister company), Standard Chartered Bank Priority Building Pavilion, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2001 This glass pavilion is an example of mixed-mode design. It has an aircurtain above the entrance, which has been modified to accommodate a number of small jets within the middle of the blower. These emit a fine spray of water that evaporates and creates a misty cloud around the doorway. This lowers the ambient temperature of the zone around the entrance. It gives a sensation of cooling to passers-by, inviting them into the pavilion.
design stages, how a building, its components and its outputs can be reused and recycled. These design considerations will determine the materials to be used, the ways in which the building fabric is to be assembled, how the building can be adapted over time, and how the materials can be reused after the building has reached the limits of its useful life. If we consider the last point, reuse, in a little more detail, we come to an increasingly important conclusion. To facilitate the reuse of, let us say, a structural component, the connection between the components should be mechanical, ie bolted, rather than welded so that the joint can be released easily. If, in addition to being easily demountable, the components were modular, then the structure could be easily demounted and reassembled elsewhere. This leads to the concept of ‘design for disassembly’ (DfD), which has its roots in sustainable design. Another major design issue is the systemic integration of our built forms, operational systems and internal processes with the natural ecosystems that surround us. Such integration is crucial because without it these systems will remain disparate artificial items that could be potential pollutants. Unfortunately, many of today’s buildings only achieve eventual integration through biodegradation that requires a long-term process of natural decomposition. While manufacture and design for recycling and reuse relieves the problem of deposition of waste, we should integrate both the organic waste (eg sewage, rain water run off, waste water, food wastes, etc) and the inorganic waste. There is a very appropriate analogy between ecodesign and
surgical prosthetics. Ecodesign is essentially design that integrates man-made systems both mechanically and organically with the natural host system – the ecosystems. A surgical prosthetic device also has to integrate with its organic host being – the human body. Failure to integrate will result in dislocation in both cases. These are the exemplars for what our buildings and our businesses should achieve: the total physical, systemic and temporal integration of our human-made, built environment with our organic host in a benign and positive way. There are, of course, a large number of theoretical and technical problems to be solved before we have a truly ecological built environment. However, we should draw encouragement from the fact that our intellect has allowed us to create prosthetic organs that can integrate with the human body. The next challenge will be to integrate our buildings, our cities and all human activities with the natural ecosystems that surround us. 4+ Kenneth Yeang was Chairman of the Master Jury of the 2007 Aga Khan Award for Architecture. The Moulmein Rise Residential Tower and University of Technology Petronas were two of nine projects presented with awards this year. For details of the award scheme and other award-winning projects, see www.akdn.org/architecture. Kenneth Yeang is a director of Llewellyn Davies Yeang in London and TR Hamzah & Yeang in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He is the author of many articles and books on ecodesign, including Ecodesign: A Manual for Ecological Design (Wiley-Academy, 2006).
Text © 2008 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images: pp 130-32 © Courtesy of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture; p 133 © Dr Ken Yeang
McLean’s Nuggets The De- and Re-Materialisation of the Art Object The logistics of art is an international business, with galleries and museums functioning as temporary stops or viewing platforms, where the art lover, or someone trying to keep out of the cold, may saunter past a good work, or not. The business and total amount of artwork in transit (measurable in weight, monetary value or the more complex measure of human happiness) we will leave for another time. It is the self-recognisable art logistic (or the art of logistics) that seems more pertinent. Aside from the Europewide doyens of a trade formerly known as road haulage such as Willi Betz, Norbert Dentressangle
and the UK’s largest private logistics company ‘brand’ of Eddie Stobart, there are independent artists who operate in the field of artworks that are designed to move. We can take to the water with French artist Daniel Buren’s sailing sculptures, which consisted of his trademark Voile (stripes) decorating the sails of a series of sailboats at Lake Grasmere (July 2005), or Aldo Rossi’s Teatro del Mondo (1979), a floating theatre for 250 that visited Venice and Dubrovnik. Also briefly appearing in a Venice canal (1985) was Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s collaboration with Frank O Gehry – a theatrical spectacular featuring a 25metre (82-foot) long floating Swiss army knife as its centrepiece. More recently we witnessed Robert
Smithson’s Floating Island – a 30 x 10 metre (98 x 33 foot) flat-decked barge of fully grown trees and large rocks being towed up and down the Hudson River, finally realised in 2005, 32 years after his premature death, which may have been interesting, but without the artist looks like a late delivery. For the land-based movable feast we find London-based artist Cedric Christie’s elegant collection of mobile art, which consists of a previously unremarkable fleet of second-hand cars being individually (and show specifically) inscribed with the participants of Kassel’s ongoing five-yearly, 100-day international art Olympics of the ‘Documenta’ exhibition. Detail of Cedric Christie’s ‘Documenta 4’ car parked in a London street.
Performance-Enhancing Architecture? During a recent conversation with a former employee of a large multinational food and domestic goods combine, he was kind enough to tell me about a sector of the nonalcoholic drinks industry entitled Performance Enhancing Beverages (PEB). Employed by the firm as a psychologist, it was one of his jobs to assess (under strict scientific procedures) the short-term physiological effects of ingested liquid refreshment, whereupon the company may or may not be allowed (by various advertising standards organisations) to make substantiated claims for their new wonder drink. This kind of psychological assessment of architecture, and its subsequent consumption, is not so obviously deployed, or perhaps not qualitatively. The space syntax mob may or may not be able to predict and somewhat guide us around the large peopled environments of stadiums, airports and shopping centres, but the designed tools and mechanisms for the traffic and comfort and ultimate enjoyment of the user seem simplistic and largely symbolic. Can we not learn from the highly tweaked ingredients of the psychologically complex PEB and make some architecture that demonstrably makes you feel good? Although ‘good’ is a rather imprecise descriptor; what about ‘architecture is good for you’ – though I doubt the profession’s representative bodies or many of its practitioners and clients would try and support such a statement. Whether through some transcendental detailing or a more robust appreciation of need and appropriate servicing, designers should begin to manufacture more stimulating and more physiologically tuned environments.
Going Local Like an observation recently overheard at the nearby motorway services that ‘the problem with Gretna Green [the UK’s premier eloping destination] is that it is not tacky enough’, seemingly unwilling to submit to a Las Vegas-style upgrade, you are left with a faintly moribund invented tradition that owes its existence more to the tachometer proximities of the logistics industry. So what future in the British Holiday destination? Leaving aside the middle-class enclaves slumming it in high-priced Nuevo rustic boutique hotels or the beach-hut investments of the south coast, are British holiday towns (and in particular the seaside variety) the doomed economic blackspots of our current imagination, or does planning supremo Sir Peter Hall have a point when he suggests that these ready-made eco holiday resorts have all the residual social and physical fabric to sustain an economic transformation? Writing in Town and Country Planning, Hall points to the tourism successes of the previously esoteric ‘adventure’ destinations of the Galápagos Islands or Machu Picchu, offering ‘natural habitat and exotic culture’,1 which in a generation have become so popular that visitor numbers are strictly controlled. Also spotted in the Institute of Directors’ magazine After Hours (Spring 2007) was a highly serviced neo-primitive tourist destination where you pay good money for ‘la service ruistique’, where the cultivated civilities and etiquette rigmaroles of the 20th century are replaced by a more loosely formed set of highgrade (that is to say, not expensive) prosaic or ‘real’ experiences. If the UK were not still so dominated by short-termed entrepreneurship and the desire for difference so well represented in the
proverbial ‘twist’, then we and our incoming tourist visitors might well be able to enjoy the regional differences and delicacies that are so prevalent, and hardly need another reinvention. We must all be careful so as not to miss the point (or the destination). 4+ Note 1. Town and Country Planning Association, Town and Country Planning, Vol 76, No 3, March 2007, pp 78–9 ‘McLean’s Nuggets’ is an ongoing technical series inspired by Will McLean and Samantha Hardingham’s enthusiasm for back issues of AD, as explicitly explored in Hardingham’s AD issue The 1970s is Here and Now (March/April 2005). Will McLean is joint coordinator of technical studies (with Peter Silver) in the Department of Architecture at the University of Westminster. Text © 2008 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Images © Will McLean
A beach ashtray distributed free by the Menorca reserva de biosfera. The Balearic island of Menorca was declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1993, for the exploration of sustainable development. There are currently 400 such designated biosphere reserves throughout the world.
4 Architectural Design Backlist Titles
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4 Architectural Design
Cities of Dispersal Guest-edited by Rafi Segal and Els Verbakel Questioning the traditional boundaries between cities, suburbs, countryside and wilderness, this issue of AD explores emergent types of public space in lowdensity environments. It describes this new form of urbanism: decentralised, in a constant process of expansion and contraction, not homogenous or necessarily low-rise, nor guided by one mode of development, typology or pattern. While functionally and programmatically dispersed, settlements operate as a form of urbanism; the place of collective spaces within them has yet to be defined and articulated. The physical transformation of the built environment on the one hand, and the change in our notion of the public on the other – due to globalisation, privatisation and segregation – call for renewed interpretations of the nature and character of public space. The concept of public space needs to be examined: replaced, re-created or adapted to fit these conditions. What is the place of the public in this form of urbanism, and how can architecture address the notion of common, collective spaces? What is the current sociopolitical role of such spaces? How does the form and use of these spaces reflect the conception of the public as a political (or non-political) body? And can architecture regain an active role in formulating the notion of the collective? These and other issues are addressed through essays, research projects and built work by distinguished writers such as Bruce Robbins, Albert Pope and Alex Wall, and practitioners including Zvi Hecker, Vito Acconci, MUTOPIA, Manuel de Solá-Morales, Martha Rosler and Manuel Vicente in a search for new collective architectures within the dispersed city.
4+ Interior Eye Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood Practice Profile KieranTimberlake Associates Userscape iO Agency Unit Factor AA New Media Research Initiative Regular columns from Will McLean, Neil Spiller and Ken Yeang