Posts tagged with "urbanism":

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What does “radical urbanism” mean today?

The Architect's Newspaper (AN) has partnered with urbanNext to share articles on common topics every two weeks. This week, we're pairing the urbanNext article below with AN's "Explore three near-future worlds where technology has changed romance (and cities too) in this GSAPP exhibit."
What does it mean to be a radical architect or designer today? Never before have cities mattered as much to the future of humanity. As David Harvey attests, we have sleepwalked unknowingly into a full-blown “crisis of planetary urbanization,” with acute social, political, and ecological dimensions[1]. Cities are fundamentally places of opportunity—after all, urban migrants continue to be drawn in their millions by the promise of security as well as upward mobility. But cities are too often sites of yawning inequality, where land, housing, infrastructure, and services are transformed into symptoms of exclusionary growth. Faced with contemporary urbanization patterns, we are forced to question how cities and city-making have traditionally operated. More to the point, as architects and designers we are forced to rethink how we can operate within the city, learning from its emerging intelligence and shaping its outcomes to radical and tactical ends. The notion of a radical urbanism draws us unavoidably into the realm of the political. Imagining a more equitable and sustainable future involves an implicit critique of the spatial and societal conditions produced by prevailing urban logics. As such, we are not only reminded of Le Corbusier’s famous ultimatum, “architecture or revolution”, but its generational echo in Buckminster Fuller’s more catastrophic pronouncement, “utopia or oblivion”[2]. Both were zero-sum scenarios born of overt social disjuncture, whether the deprivations and tensions of the interwar period, or the escalating conflicts and ecological anxiety of the late 1960s. While the wave of experimental ‘post‑utopian’ practices that emerged in the early 1970s positioned themselves explicitly in opposition to perceived failures of the modern movement, these disparate groups shared a belief – however disenchanted – with their predecessors in the idea that radical difference was possible, as well as a conviction that a break was necessary[3].
It is precisely this potent mix of idealism and criticality that we wish to explore under the rubric of ‘radical urbanism’—utopian dreams tempered by an unflinching engagement with social reality. We are interested in those who advocate for the exceptional while cloaked in the trappings of routine. Those who infiltrate peripheral disciplines, embed themselves as outside observers, and leverage a proximate vantage point to influence decisions and policies. Those who relinquish direct control in favor of distributed autonomy and instrumental feedback. We are interested in projects that seek distance from disciplinary bounds, and from legal, political, and societal norms. That render complicit the imminently possible and the highly improbable, the absolutely necessary and the prohibitively taboo. A radical project does not necessarily view design as a solution, nor as a means to elucidate a question, but as a fundamental restructuring of assumptions in the way we live, and the environments that are necessary to support that life. The history of architecture and urbanism is littered with individuals, groups, movements, structures, unbuilt work, conceptual projects, research programs, theories, exhibitions, publications, and performances that collectively trace a potent tradition of radical intention. What ties these diverse activities together is not a desire to escape disciplinary boundaries entirely, but instead to redefine the very possibilities of architecture and design as a means to usher in an alternative to the status quo. Though radical urbanism can assume countless forms, one can point to three potential fields of contestation that embody alternative modes of practice, thought, or engagement. The first is by outlining a provocative vision that challenges the normative thinking of the time. The second is by recasting the role of the architect in order to question what is pragmatically possible when intervening in an urban environment. The third is to operate at the vanguard of political change, or, in other words, architecture as revolution. If one accepts the foundational modernist belief that addressing the realities of contemporary life means working in (and through) the city, then architecture and urbanism can represent a radical subversion of established social structures beyond material questions of form and aesthetics[4]. From unrealized visions and plans like Antonio Sant’Elia’s La Città Nuova, Yona Friedman’s Ville Spatiale, Constant Nieuwenhuys’ New Babylon, and Cedric Price’s Potteries Thinkbelt, to the avant-garde provocations of Archigram’s Plug-In City, Superstudio’s The Continuous Monument, and Archizoom’s No-Stop-City, the inclusive humanism of the Smithsons, the animist hybridity of Pancho Guedes, the techno‑utopianism of the Metabolists, and the politically charged agit-prop of groups like Ant Farm, Utopie, and Haus‑Rucker‑Co, we can see a shift from the limited understanding of architecture as the design of discrete structures, to an expanded notion that architecture and urbanism can embody a form of cultural critique, or venture even more decisively into the realm of social and political action. This dovetails with a parallel line of thought that views the role of the architect as extending beyond ‘pure’ design, to support the agency of the individuals and communities whose everyday life shapes the evolving built environment. We see this in the flexible open building concepts of John Habraken, the simple modular housing system of Walter Segal, the self-build and self‑management theories of John Turner, the cooperative strategies and ‘pragmatic anarchism’ of Colin Ward, the tecnica povera of Riccardo Dalisi with children from the Traiano Quartiere in Naples, and the ‘action planning’ of Otto Koenigsberger in India. Besides a common concern with the groups or ‘users’ most often marginalized or excluded by formal processes of authority and control, these projects are linked by a modesty that contrasts starkly with the heroic projections of the modern movement. It is a radical urbanism characterized by sensitivity to scale and time, an appreciation of context, and a shift from author to enabler. The third type of radicality emanates from the inside out, where urbanism is adopted as an institutionalized building block prefiguring a new way of life. Though discredited in its most deterministic guise—the hubristic belief in the ability to “correct society on the drawing board”[5]—this direct alignment of architects and designers with revolutionary governance is perhaps urbanism at its most ‘radical’. While the emblematic case remains the ‘social condensers’ of Mozei Ginsburg and the Russian constructivists, which were consciously designed to induce collectivism, it is echoed in Álvaro Siza’s involvement with the ‘brigades’ of the Serviço de Apoio Ambulatório Local (SAAL) housing program following the Portuguese revolution, the Proyecto Experimental de Vivienda (PREVI) launched in Peru in the brief mid-1960s interlude between military dictatorships, and the peripheral new towns designed by BV Doshi’s Vāstu-Shilpā Consultants in post-independence India. In tune with emancipatory political agendas, these schemes sought to underpin alternative forms of economic and social development. Reyner Banham has described dreams of a better world as the true “ghosts in the machine” of 20th century architecture, while Tahl Kaminer argues the loss of the “utopian horizon” means the idea of progress has been rejected as a myth[6]. Does it make any sense then to speak of a contemporary radical urbanism? In short, we are convinced it does. Cities are complex, hybrid spaces where divergent ways of acting, thinking about, and living urban life collide and transform. And in these spaces, a new generation of architects, designers, advocates, artists, sociologists, anthropologists, economists, and activists are collectively reimagining new tactics to tackle critical urban and social issues. The city today is perhaps more radical than those operating within it. It computes unknown possibilities, conducts high‑risk experimentation, and telegraphs previously unknowable futures more quickly and more completely than the raft of professionals tasked with its stewardship, analysis, or design. A discussion based around concrete and scalable projects is necessary to reframe the term ‘radical’ and its potentials for design in the 21st century. The ‘Radical Urbanism’ exhibition in this Biennale will bring greater visibility to alternative models of housing, mobility, production, and recreation grounded in the pursuit of social and environmental justice, diversity, and equality. It will highlight forms of radical praxis that question the role of the architect and redefine the discipline, claiming new territories, new functions, and new legitimacy for architectural and design thinking. It will give space to projects that are both courageous and provocative—that call attention to game-changing urban agents of tomorrow. It will show how it is possible to develop path-breaking tactics of intervention and engagement while operating legitimately within the blind spots of existing power structures. And it will reaffirm the capacity of architects and designers to articulate empowering, transformative, confronting, and realizable visions of our collective urban future. [Excerpt from Re-Living the City: UABB 2015 Catalogue, 2016] This article originally appeared as The Evolution of Radical Urbanism in urbanNext. [1] David Harvey, ‘The Crisis of Planetary Urbanization’ in Pedro Gadanho (ed), Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities (2014) 29. [2] See Le Corbusier, Toward an Architecture (1927); R Buckminster Fuller, ‘Invisible Future’ (December 1967) 11 San Francisco Oracle 24. [3] Fredric Jameson, Archaeologies of the Future (2005) 168. [4] John R Gold, The Experience of Modernism: Modern Architects and the Future City, 1928-53 (2013) 15-16. [5] Meyer Schapiro, ‘Architect’s Utopia: Review of Architecture and Modern Life’ (1938) 4 Partisan Review 46, 89-92. [6] Reyner Banham, Theory and Design in the First Machine Age (2nd ed, 1980) 12; Tahl Kaminer, Architecture, Crisis and Resuscitation: The Reproduction of Post-Fordism in Late-Twentieth-Century Architecture (2011) 19.
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Habitat III conference charts a difficult path for successful global urbanization

We are living in an urban age. According to the United Nations, the balance of people living in cities crossed the threshold of 50 percent in 2008 for the first time in the history of the planet. By 2050, it is estimated that more than three-quarters of the world’s population could reside in cities.

With such global demographic shifts taking place within cities, combined with the accelerating challenges of climate change, it would be easy to be pessimistic about the future.

The UN conference Habitat III, which took place in Quito, Ecuador, from October 17–20, was a key moment in which the global community embraced the idea of urbanization as a positive agent of change in human development. Occurring only once every 20 years, the conference collects some of the world’s most influential policy makers, politicians, press, designers, researchers, experts in sustainability, and interested onlookers on issues surrounding housing and sustainable urban development.

This year there were 45,000 participants, the greatest number ever to attend. Many of the thousands of participants appeared to be local Quiteños who had managed to register in time and had braved the long lines. The week was hectic, busy with visitors clamoring to attend panel discussions, visit exhibitions, and listen to lively discussions. The audience was filled with intrigue and anticipation, teetering on frenzy—there was so much to do and so many important conversations to absorb and participate in.

We felt that this was a landmark week—because we were in the place where the New Urban Agenda, the ambitious document that underpins the conference, was officially adopted. Paragraph five out of its twenty-three pages perhaps communicates best its bold potential: “By readdressing the way cities and human settlements are planned, designed, financed, developed, governed, and managed, the New Urban Agenda will help to end poverty and hunger in all its forms and dimensions, reduce inequalities, promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, in order to fully harness their vital contribution to sustainable development, improve human health and well-being, as well as foster resilience and protect the environment.”

The positive outlook continued into the conference and throughout there was a series of exciting conceptual revelations that shifted the discourse on the evolution of cities. It started with recent Pritzker Laureate  Alejandro Aravena’s keynote speech at the end of the first day, where he extolled his belief that the moment had come to invert our notion that good cities only come about after the creation of wealth and prosperity; to one where good cities lead by setting the context for economic development—an idea he borrowed directly from Dr. Joan Clos, executive director of the conference. Then there was the hugely anticipated release of the Atlas of Urban Expansion, a collaboration among New York University, UN-Habitat, and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. After years of analyzing satellite data, Professor Shlomo Angel and his team revealed conclusive proof that the footprints of cities are expanding faster than their populations.

LSE Cities and Deutsche Bank’s decade-old Urban Age program explores how the physical and social are interconnected and enter the collective conscience. The New Urban Agenda’s mantra of “urbanization as an engine of sustained and inclusive economic growth, social and cultural development, and environmental protection” with its “potential contributions to the achievement of transformative and sustainable development” seems irrefutable and was adopted by all member states.

However, just because it is written does not necessarily mean it shall be. Reality is unpredictable. Ominously, on the final day of the conference, after days of a smoothly run operation, there was a sudden power outage. The whole complex of the Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana, where the majority of the conference was located, was temporarily thrown into darkness. As people exited the dark lecture theaters, eyes squinted against the bright sunlight, rumors circulated that there were power surges causing explosions on the grid and that the city was without electricity, perhaps even the whole country. An hour or so of presentations, though written weeks before, were wiped from existence.

Leaders often turn to architecture to make concrete ideas that are, in reality, abstract constructions and Dr. Clos was no different in this regard when he asserted that the New Urban Agenda is contingent on “three pillars” of development: the rule of law, good design, and a sound financial plan. By the end of the conference they were being expounded almost as if they were fundamental laws of nature: “Without these three pillars in a good manner, well balanced, we don’t have good urbanization. You can have excellent project design of two pillars but if … any one of them fails, all the systems fail.” Unsurprisingly, architects across history have been among the biggest exponents of using architectural rhetoric to imbue an underlying natural order to their ideas. Though Dr. Clos is an epidemiologist by training, his image of three pillars conjures the spirit of the likes of Vitruvius, Vignola, and Le Corbusier. Though subsequent societies came to recognize these men’s “laws,” as polemical constructs, now that the New Urban Agenda has been adopted it would seem that Dr. Clos’s words have become a fixed reality for many.

Aravena has an enthusiastic belief in these laws. In fact, his practice, Elemental, provides the perfect example of the three pillars at work. In his evening Urban Talk, Aravena explained the financially sustainable building models his practice develops that allow the construction of homes at scale. He informed us that crucial to his projects, in addition to the relationship between the state and the market, a third element is utilized: the capacity of the people themselves. This dynamic, exemplified in his Incremental Housing concept, is where people expand on their homes within a preset framework when they have the means. Aravena’s model exemplifies how good design enables people who start with nothing to become property owners and even sell and reinvest.

This goes to the heart of a key idea pervading the New Urban Agenda. Bundled up in the preeminence of the city is an ideology that increasing land values will unlock wealth and prosperityfor all, in what the president of the Lincoln Institute for Land Policy, George McCarthy, said is a virtuous cycle: “… when new investments made in infrastructure and services increase the size of the tax base, and increase the value of the land, it becomes the source of new own source revenues and those revenues become available to make new investments…” Essential to delivering on the New Urban Agenda is a strategy based on market economics. In this context, fears over the right to the city are understandable. With growing inequalities in urbanized and urbanizing regions, how can the prosperity of the many be guaranteed?

It is possible to have come away from the conference believing that the world’s leading thinkers on urbanization were broadly in agreement about their faith in the strategies underlying the New Urban Agenda. Except, beyond the high fences and security barriers protecting the Habitat III venues, other events were taking place that ran counter to this, such as “The Alternative Habitat,” organized by activists, community organizers, and researchers who felt left out of the official process. Invisible from any official program, the geographer David Harvey gave an energizing talk at the university on the Right to the City.

Professor Edgar Pieterse of the African Centre for Cities was one of the few speakers to plainly spell out the political economic challenge when speaking on a panel in the conference discussing the UN Green Cities partnership: “… it does require that we also talk about the political economy of vested interests… There are a set of infrastructure economies, financial actors, and financial markets that have a vested interest in the unsustainable form of the city.” Pieterse went further, explaining that “60 percent of the labor force is employed in precarious situations. So they don’t have the revenue or the income to live in these beautifully, carefully planned cities. They don’t.”

However, delve further into the implications of Clos’s pillars, and the whole conception of democratic place making could be brought into question. “First and foremost,” he argued, “urbanization should be based on the rule of law. Good urbanization is based in good urban legislation and its implementation. Good urban legislation generates urban value.”

But how might the rule of law be enforced? The foregrounding of these ideas will have fundamental impacts on the development of cities and their architectures with potentially dangerous unintended consequences. When Clos dictated that “… the natural form of spontaneous urbanization is the slum,” it seemed clear that his insistence on the rules of law is most acutely directed at developing nations and their regions of rapidly expanding informal settlements. What troubles him is that in the coming years, developing countries will provide the greatest growth. Current UN estimates show that Africa alone will account for 54 percent of global population growth by 2050, the majority of which will bein cities. These are precisely the places where the social contract is weakest, making the rule of law, regulation, and planning the most difficult and antagonistic to implement. So, if the price of establishing the New Urban Agenda is expropriating land and increasing municipal revenues by imposing new, ever-inventive forms of taxation that also target the poor, without addressing Pieterse’s pertinent point about securing jobs, then UN-Habitat might inadvertently be framing the city as the territory of a battle between elite policy makers, planners and politicians, and the urban poor.

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What is the future of transportation in Mexico City?

Mexico City is the largest city in North America and has been around since the 14th century when the Aztecs settled the area. Many layers of history, culture, and development—both private and public—can be seen in its rich architecture and urbanism. Crumbles of pyramids abut Spanish cathedrals and huge modernist housing blocks, foregrounded by spectacular parks, statues, and fountains from the various periods in the history of the region. However, along with the complex history comes a complex city. The organizers of CoRe Foro Urbano CDMX 2016, a two-day summit of experts from the development, policy, design, and transportation sectors, cited this complexity and a perceived lack of leadership among the different stakeholders as the impetus for getting together and addressing the multi-faceted challenges of the city. The main initiator of the conference was Kaluz, "a diversified conglomerate of companies active in the following sectors: industry, construction materials, and financial services." They worked with the Planning Commission of Mexico City and the Delegacion Cuauhtmoc (the local borough government) to realize the forum, which is organized into four panels: Mobility, Public Space, Citizenship and Responsibility, and Zoning and Diverse City. It was not structured as lectures or talks, but more of a series of roundtable discussions that were aimed directly at the problems of Mexico City, and how each can be addressed with real solutions. This is part one of our series, "Urbanism in Mexico City," reported live from the discussion.  The first panel focused on transportation, which for Mexico City is seen as a hinderance to development, as the public systems are not as robust as in London or New York. Mexico City has developed along long corridors that have been around since it was founded, and in the 1860s, these large streets became boulevards, as was the European tradition. Development followed these main arteries, but the car came along and made them less effective for the city. While the city has adapted and incorporated cycle lanes and sidewalks on the main areas, gentrification has brought more traffic. Riccardo Marini of Gehl Architects pointed out that this is not just about livable cites, but also about the species-scale problem of burning fossil fuels. Camilla Ween of Transport for London explained how some of the best projects in central London are smaller-scale pedestrianization projects and connections rather than big technical undertakings. Architect and urbanist Jan Gehl agreed that cities are not great for cities, and took it a step further: Shared cars and autonomous cars are no better than single-driver cars, which were perhaps a good idea on the open ranges 100 years ago, but are bad for people and the environment. He is optimistic that we are winning, and that the future is bright for public transportation, although it will require big commitments. Planning, real estate, and transportation consultant Andres Sanudo cited parking lots as a big problem for Mexico City. The money that private developers spend on parking lots could build a huge amount of public transport, while also encouraging people to get rid of cars and take them off the road. Their solution is to change the codes to have maximums for parking spaces in developments rather than minimums. Michael Kodransky of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy said that minimums also prevent the city from densifying, and that densifying a city gives it the resources and users for public transportation. Edgar Farah of 5M2 noted that while public transport allows more access for the young and the poor, it is also important to have a range of transport systems for a range of people. "The main problem of mobility in the city is that we have made many people go away," he said. Sanudo agreed with this statement, saying "How do we get those people—that the market has driven out—back into the city without distorting the market?" For Mexico City, connections to the metro area are a challenge for the future, as many of the workers in the central districts commute over two hours to work. Florencia Serrania of Prodi said that reducing that by even 30 minutes with better transport, signage, and connections would make a big difference. The metropolis of over 23 million has to become a connected and mobile city to be one that is accessible to all of the populations. The participants each suggested an action they would implement first, which included:

Give over half of the streets to bikes and walkers.

Make people give up cars for a short period of time.

Commit to the Metro system (subways and buses).

Build things for the people who build the towers.

Limit the number of plates that could be issued and make it an auction.

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A new competition aims to give substantial aid to design-based agencies that are improving cities

The Rockefeller Foundation, in partnership with the Unreasonable Institute, has unveiled a $1 million competition that seeks design-based agencies and entrepreneurs who are tackling the diverse challenges facing cities today. According to its organizers, Future Cities Accelerator hopes to address "everything from crime to inequality, to pollution, and aging infrastructure" with the objective of providing a "solution that will impact at least 1 million people and provide lasting change." The Rockefeller Foundation has developed a strong pedigree in resiliency, as notably seen with their 100 Resilient Cities initiative. For this competition, both "building greater resilience" and creating "more inclusive economies" will play a central role. In April this year, they joined forces with Unreasonable Institute, an organization that provides mentoring and funds for start-ups. As its name suggests, the accelerator is looking for "early-stage" organizations (for-profit or non-profit) to boost and improve. (Courtesy Unreasonable Media / VImeo) (Courtesy Unreasonable Media / Vimeo) The registration process—which closes on September 25, 2016—will ask organizations questions about their revenue, spending, stakeholders, and ambitions. The process also requires that entrants supply a short video detailing who they are and what they want to achieve. From this, a select group will be chosen for interviews and site visits. Once complete, ten winners will be announced. The winners will each receive $100,000 funding and a nine-month program of mentoring and technological support. In addition to this, the ten chosen organizations will participate in a six week online course starting in January 2017. Later, in March, they will take part in a "five-day in-person bootcamp" in Denver, Colorado (all expenses paid). In October, the organizations will be flown to San Francisco, California, where they’ll present at and participate in the Social Capital Markets (SOCAP) conference, a gathering of thousands of funders and entrepreneurs in the impact sector.
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Six U.S. cities will join tactical urbanism workshop series

Is the dawn of “Tactical Urbanism” upon us? This approach to reshaping urban environments, which focuses on small-scale interventions, is a rising trend in urban environments across the U.S. Now six cities have been chosen to be part of a tactical urbanism workshop series. Selected from a group of 18, Akron, OH; Austin, TX; Fayetteville, AR; Long Beach, CA; Washington, D.C.; West Palm Beach, FL were the lucky half-dozen who will be part of a series that aims to "jump-start" tactical urbanism in the areas. The program, which benefits from funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, aims to "advance street safety and placemaking projects such as pedestrian plazas, bike lanes, shared streets, and more." City authorities in the chosen cities will work alongside urban planning, design, and research firm, Street Plans Collaborative. The firm and city officials will design a workshop that encompasses tactical urbanism methodologies with a "hands-on" project that positively impacts a local street or public space. In doing so, the workshops will see the first physical application of the Tactical Urbanist’s Guide to Materials and Designa resource produced by the collaborative that specifies materials and design principles for tactical urbanism projects. “Over the past seven years Street Plans has built a practice around implementing Tactical Urbanism projects around the globe,” said Street Plans Principal Mike Lydon, who leads the firms New York office. “Our four open-source guides and recent book, along with many other resources, provide substantial case-study level information on the topic. But, we’ve heard time and again that what is needed now is more guidance about design and materials, for both city- and citizen-led projects.” “The Tactical Urbanist’s Guide to Materials and Design will address this need by providing design and materials information for Tactical Urbanism projects of varying time scales and level of formality,” added fellow Principal Tony Garcia, who leads the Miami office. “This new resource will help bridge the gap between city- and citizen-led projects, helping a host of stakeholders widen public engagement and accelerate project delivery and evaluation.” Meanwhile, Knight Foundation director for community and national strategy Benjamin de la Peña said: “Cities can invite more of their citizens to help shape their communities. The Tactical Urbanism Workshops and the Manual will open up new channels of civic engagement.”
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Navigate the Classical way through Rome with the Nolli map on your iPad

The Nolli map, a product of twelve years of copious research by Italian surveyor Giambattista Nolli, is a navigational tool that has truly stood the test of time. Completed over 250 years ago in 1748, the map has now found another breath of life thanks to app developer Martin Koppenhöfer. Originally engraved into twelve copper plates, Nolli's map was the most accurate representation of Rome available. While that may not be the case today, the map has retained much of its accuracy over the years thanks to Rome's preservation, with notable landmarks such as the Colosseum and Pantheon still standing tall. This veracity can be seen when the map is over satellite imagery of Rome, as can be seen below. Subsequently, viewers can explore how Rome has developed as a city since the map's creation. Vehicle travel was, of course, not a factor in 1748, though Koppenhöfer commented that "pedestrian navigation is very different… you don’t have to know every street or turn, just go into the right direction.” “In designing the present edition,” Koppenhöfer continued, “we have spent great care with the aim to be as close to the original as possible regarding the labeling and the structure of the directories. Therefore the app reproduces....[the] notation as provided by Giambattista Nolli in his indices. By selecting an entry you will be led to the corresponding location on the map. You can also browse by tapping on one of the numbers on the map to see what it is about.” Available on iOS devices, the map is also usable online. Here, courtesy of University of Oregon, the map is accompanied by a series of essays relating to the map. For example, The Walls of Rome by James Tice and Allan Ceen from the university's Department of Architecture analyze Rome's city walls from the 8th century B.C. to the 1500s. Using the map, they outline the city perimeter at various dates: "The wall circuits of Rome provide a frame of reference for the city both as a measure of its growth and prosperity and also as a testament to the vicissitudes of a great city, its image of itself, and the practical needs for security during times of travail and even during times of peace," they say. Another essay by James Tice, The Forgotten Landscape of Rome: The Disabitato, looks at how Nolli's map illustrates Rome's former uninhabited and forgotten places. Other texts look at the cartographic qualities of the map. As for the map itself, “The explanations of the signatures and line styles,” said Koppenhöfer, and “hatches and selected abbreviations are reproduced in their original form. You can access Nolli’s original spelling of the indices, legend, and other signs at the bottom of the English version in Italian language.”
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Jane Jacobs: 100 and Timeless as Ever

In most cases, a century provides a round, nostalgic number. It is an arbitrary marker, offering a chance for living generations to contemplate a past beyond their firsthand comprehension. A century is not just a convenient marker for remembering Jane Jacobs. It is a crucial interval for appreciating the world she grew up in, the urban devastation she witnessed, the forces she fought against, and the future she hoped for. Even as the planning profession has roundly embraced Jacobs’s ideas, the resurrection of the American city remains a work in progress. This is not your grandmother’s city. But it may yet be. Though Jacobs passed away 10 years ago and published her masterpiece, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, in 1961, urbanists do not celebrate her for some distant, reverenced work. Contemporary movements such as smart growth, pedestrianism, public transit, New Urbanism, tactical urbanism, and the Millennial sunburst of enthusiasm for urban living all hearken back to Jacobs. Even so, the historical moment that gave rise to Jacobs is still happening, with the momentum of a nuclear meltdown still spitting out radiation, half-life after half-life. "Orthodox modernist city planning...refuses to die,” said Robert A.M. Stern, dean of the Yale School of Architecture. "She did a very good job of trying to kill it, by turning attention back to city streets and the people who inhabit them." When suburbs were swelling and freeways were tearing through cities in the mid-20th century, few planners or architects recognized, or cared, that cities were dying. Planners followed the European model of Le Corbusier and the International Congress of Modern Architecture (CIAM), which advocated the demolition of neighborhoods and the erection of sterile towers and pointless open spaces. In the United States, this program evolved into highways, tract housing, and “urban renewal.” Jacobs celebrated life, not objects. She was eloquent, rebellious, endearing, and superficially unassuming—in part because she was a woman in a field that was, and remains, dominated by men. A tenacious activist, Jacobs not only lived her ideals but actually prevailed, staring down New York City’s infrastructure czar Robert Moses and saving Greenwich Village from the proposed Lower Manhattan Expressway. Jacobs arrived at her radicalism by looking backwards—and looking around. She uncovered the great things about cities that had been known, if not fully articulated, for millennia. She contended that “scientific” modernist planning and design was little more than a rationalization to justify the enshrinement of (white, male) egotism in the landscape. Jacobs was the real scientist, using powers of observation and deduction to describe what she saw as the natural environment in which urban humans thrived. “Her only qualifications were her eyes and her social conscience, and she started telling people there is a horrendous gap between your forms and your social ideals,” said architect Stefanos Polyzoides, a co-founder of the Congress for the New Urbanism. “The architectural profession was dominated by this idea that modern is good and everything else is rotten." (Jacobs had at least one major like-minded contemporary in sociologist William H. Whyte. Otherwise, Jacobs dominates planning like few have dominated any field. In 2009 the urban planning website Planetizen.com conducted an unscientific poll of history's 100 "greatest urban thinkers.” Out of 14,000 votes, Jacobs took the top spot with five times as many votes as the runner-up, New Urbanist Andrés Duany.) It’s almost impossible to point to specific examples of Jacobs’s influence. If anything, Jacobs signifies negation: the absence of a superblock, the highway that was never built. Or she embodies the ephemeral: the evening stroll, the chance encounter, the purchase of a bagel and coffee. “She was really about ways to experience a city rather than what a city was supposed to look like,” said Richard Sennett, professor of sociology at the London School of Economics, who knew Jacobs in her heyday. Today, it is the rare urban designer who gets to develop a city, or even a neighborhood, from scratch. In mature cities, change happens over the course of decades. By working at the level of the discrete parcel or building—for better or worse—and on projects that typically take mere years architects, rather than planners, face more ample and direct opportunities to realize Jacobs’s lessons. Fifty-five years later, architects are still debating what those lessons are. Short of Lou Reed, perhaps no one is more closely associated with Greenwich Village than Jacobs is. She is often assumed to be both a preservationist and a historicist, forever promoting bricks and brownstones—likely an unexciting prospect for contemporary designers in pursuit of the new. "Because she defended the Village…by extension she defended the historicity of the city,” said Polyzoides. Jacobs did not, however, explicitly promote a certain architectural style. By embracing diversity, she avoided the fate of her modernist nemeses. "She’s against singularity and for diversity, diversity of all kinds: economic, social, physical,” said Polyzoides. "In that sense she might be very pleased with a modern or contemporary building in a traditional street." While Jacobs may have been agnostic about how a building looks, she was anything but when it came to how it relates to its surroundings. Jacobs makes architects think about all the elements of cities that aren’t buildings. Lorcan O’Herlihy, founding principal of Los Angeles-based Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects, said that this perspective compels architects to pay attention to how buildings relate to street life and with surrounding buildings. His design process includes literal interaction: extensive community dialog through which he tries to understand a project’s role in the human environment. While non-residents may never enter a building, its influence still extends, for better or worse, beyond the property line. "It’s not only about buildings, but it’s also about engaging edges,” said O’Herlihy. "That is something that is missing in an urban context when you turn your back to the sidewalk and street." That approach calls for a level of creativity that is often considered lacking in American modern design, which Stern calls "a corporate version of the International Style." Jacobs offers an alternative. She gives architects the opportunity—perhaps even the obligation—to perceive and respond to neighborhoods as they are and not to impose placeless design theories on them. "Jacobs revered the city as the preeminent site of choice and possibility and she saw architecture’s duty as enabling, not domineering,” said Michael Sorkin, principal of New York-based Michael Sorkin Studio and author of Twenty Minutes in Manhattan. "Her gift to designers was the rejection of fixed formulas in favor of an ever-unfolding dialectic of form and life." Just as Jacobs celebrated city life, so might Jacobs-inspired designs be capable of living many lives. "The best way to honor her would actually be…systems of building that are accretive rather than rupturing,” said Richard Sennett, author and Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Cambridge University' sociology department. Sennett cited Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena, who designs buildings with the intention that they will be altered and added to in time. For all of Jacobs’s focus on the “human scale” of 20th century cities, 21st century cities may be developing at a scale that makes Jacobs seem, if not precious, then at least inadequate. Jacobs has often drawn criticism for not directly addressing social issues such as segregation and poverty, instead referring to them under the broad mantle of diversity. But contemporary mega-cities in the developing world are growing at unprecedented rates. Lagos, Mumbai, Jakarta, and the like, make New York City look like a sleepy hamlet. In these cities, swelling with urban poor, the “sidewalk ballet” isn’t the most pressing issue. “Of course they’re relevant today, but they’re not the macro problems,” said Thom Mayne, principal of Morphosis. Jacobs’s attention to the street and the neighborhood “doesn’t have anything to do with the 50 percent of the world that ends up in these urban configurations." Then again, Saskia Sassen, professor of sociology at Columbia University, suggests that debates over city form and urban details obscure Jacobs’s broader contributions about urban economics. Jacobs’s 1969 Economy of Cities contends that macro-scale productivity, and indeed the capitalist ideal itself, depends on the aggregate of activities that take place on blocks and in neighborhoods. "Jacobs shows the city as an economic machine, a machine that can process all kinds of elements that are often coming from non-urban settings,” said Sassen. “[In] a suburb or a private, gated corporate office park, you have density, but you don’t have a city." Debating Jacobs’s relevance presents a thorny challenge. In many circles, she has gained as much influence, intellectually at least, as her Modernist counterparts ever did. Nonetheless, the environments that they built still endure. Appealing as they are, Jacobs’s theories remain largely untested even as, 55 years later, no one has arisen to substantially oppose or eclipse her. “The longevity of her influence is attributable to the fact she spoke all the truth in a straightforward way,” said Stern. "The profession of planning and architecture has not yet caught up with her wisdom because it is still object-fixated and open-space fixated.” If any century promises to be the Jane Jacobs Century, then, it may not be the past one: in which she spent 84 of her 90 years, wrote seminal texts, and took a wrecking ball to modernism. That may have been prelude. Rather, the Jane Jacobs Century promises to be the current one: in which the urban world from which she departed may—slowly—become more like the one into which she was born.
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Stealthy Parisian development blends city life with garden courtyards

VIB Architecture has constructed a mixed-use program of student housing and a nursery along a narrow site in a busy neighborhood in Paris.

In a Parisian neighborhood known for its pedestrian-scale passages and small alleys, VIB Architecture has constructed a mixed-use project skillfully incorporating student housing and a nursery program into a complex of several new construction and renovated properties. The project is located in Belleville, a historically working class neighborhood with strong arts community and a heterogeneous mix of architectural scales arranged along a hilly topography. This latest addition to the neighborhood adds to the mix by combining contextual strategies with a bold contemporary material palette and massing scheme. The project is generally organized around two 8-story buildings that are bisected by an exterior passageway that leads to a courtyard space. Apartments are located along the active street front, protecting a rear sunny courtyard, lined with smaller scale buildings, for use by the nursery. An existing building links the two programs.
  • Facade Manufacturer Tolartois (panel fabrication); Francano (anodized finish)
  • Architects VIB Architecture (Franck Vialet and Bettina Ballus)
  • Facade Installer BECS (engineering consultants) / Lainé Delau (facade installation)
  • Facade Consultants Igrec Ingénierie (engineering)
  • Location Paris 20e
  • Date of Completion 2015
  • System rainscreen (perforated, stamped, arched, boards over a galvanized steel framing)
  • Products 2mm aluminum panels (Tolartois); bronze anodizing (Francano); marble granulate coated facades (Zolgranit); Lacquered aluminum frames with integrated acoustic ventilation slits (Kawneer), Laminated and coated flat glass & metal mesh (Jakob)
The most recognizable building is wrapped in a custom-designed perforated aluminum skin, with a massing composed of slightly staggered floor plates with rounded corners. The skin of the building becomes panelized into operable shutters at window locations, allowing for users to control desired levels of shading, privacy and ventilation. The horizontal patterning of the perforations tracks downward into the courtyard, aesthetically integrating the housing and nursery programs, says Franck Vialet, Partner of VIB Architecture. “The perforations give depth and the horizontal stripes vibrate and link the street to the inner gardens.” The building interestingly was originally designed with a wooden rainscreen system, but was dropped early in the design process due to strict fire regulations. Vialet says the resulting aluminum facade became a natural choice due to its material qualities and design flexibility with fabrication processes. “We looked for a skin that could be unique and could be textured or machined into both large scale and smaller pieces. Anodized aluminum was the ideal solution because of its great ability to reflect light and to be perforated easily.” Positioned next to an historic garden, the bronze anodized building acts as a landmark, providing a sense of depth to the urban fabric of Belleville. Immediately adjacent to this building sits a second which is designed to be compatible with existing context, clad in a white plastic coating, the massing of the building is more ubiquitous than the first, while strategically stepping down at the rear facade to gently meet the courtyard. By altering the tectonics of the two buildings, the overall impact of the scale of the project is reduced while reinforcing a central circulation “spine” through the length of the plot, linking two successive courtyards. Vialet says the most successful part of the project is the urbanism it fosters: “its ability to naturally blend into the city and to bring together people from the street, the park, and the courtyards.”
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Weird, but not so wonderful, says China as it bans “weird” architecture

Question: What has three Arcs de Triomphe, an Eiffel Tower, an Egyptian Sphynx, a Louvre, London Bridge and ten White Houses all over? The answer: China, of course. If the Chinese government has its way, that will soon change.

https://twitter.com/TheMCRsoviet/status/632080629048459264

The duplicate architectural icons may end there as the country's authorities have said no to anymore "oversized, xenocentric, weird" architecture, The New York Times reports. The State Council and the Communist Party’s Central Committee last week stated that there is to essentially be no more copycat architecture, and instead urged new builds to be “suitable, economic, green and pleasing to the eye.” The directive also stipulated that "the chaotic propagation of grandiose, West-worshipping, weird architecture" should be ended, while gated communities have also been vetoed.

Guidelines arose after meetings discussed issues regarding the alarming rate of urbanization that China is undergoing. Just two years ago, President Xi Jinping expressed his views on China's architectural scene, again deeming it "weird" saying there was to be "no more weird architecture." He went on to say that the current climate displayed "a lack of cultural confidence and some city officials’ distorted attitudes about political achievements," though only now does action appear to be being taken.

According to a translation by the Wall Street Journal Blog, Yang Baojun, vice director of the China Academy of Urban Planning and Design (CAUPA), commented on the directive, saying that "the document is a wake-up call for those places where [there has been] a one-sided pursuit of architectural form over function, where cultural orientation has been compromised by an excessive desire to show off."

The New York Times meanwhile reports that experts have warned of "stricter design standards for public buildings." It also added that, an online forum for the Communist Party newspaper, People's Dailypredicted that "in the future it is unlikely that Beijing will have other strangely shaped buildings like the ‘Giant Trousers’ " referring to the China Central Television Headquarters (CCTV) by OMA.

Feng Guochuan, an architect based in Shenzhen spoke about how the President Xi's words had already begun to have an impact on decision making regarding new projects. He was also worried that Xi was meddling with matters that should only concern urban planners, and not the President. "Generally speaking, local governments now tend to approve more conservative designs," he said.

https://twitter.com/DanLewisNews/status/243113209974890496?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

However, Wang Kai, vice president of CAUPA, said these stricture design guidelines would mainly be applied to public schemes, while private projects would still have freedom. "For private housing or commercial projects, there is still space for innovation."

Mr. Wang also added that "we shouldn’t go overboard in pursuit of appearances," going on to say how functionality should be the main concern in public buildings.

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Sou Fujimoto and David Chipperfield among others tasked with “Reinventing Paris”

As part of a master plan comprising 23 sites across ParisSou Fujimoto, David Chipperfield, and 20 others have been named as winners involved in responding the the Mayor's call to "reinvent Paris." https://twitter.com/Paris/status/694829444243046400?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw "A city like Paris must be able to reinvent itself at every moment in order to meet the many challenges facing it. Particularly in terms of housing and everything relating to density, desegregation, energy and resilience," said Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris. "It is important in today's world to find new collective ways of working that will give shape to the future metropolis." The scheme was launched last year at the start of November, and has prompted many architects and developers to submit plans for the 23 sites across the city. Ranging from empty brownfield sites, polluted wastelands, classified mansions, office renovations, and train stations, Hidalgo's plan has been hailed by many with French publication Talerma going so far as to call it a "stroke of genius." Despite the number of changes, one of the 23 sites, an 1880 neo-Gothic former Korean Embassy-turned-mansion has been left neglected. The judges deemed that no proposal (barely any were submitted) was worthy of construction and so the ageing structure will be left untouched on the Avenue De Villiers. The same cannot be said for the Messana railway station, however. Given the unusual location and former typology, many were inspired to make it their own and judges were spoilt for choice. The winning submission came from Lina Ghotmeh DGT Architects who transformed the space into a healthy eating haven. Including a rooftop vegetable garden, a laboratory for agroecosystem research, gardening classrooms, residences for young chefs, bar, and, of course, restaurant. Other notable winning submissions came from British architect David Chipperfield and Sou Fujimoto from Japan. Working alongside Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, Chipperfield will "reinvent" the Immeuble Morland, a 164-foot tall once state-owned building that lies on the river Seine. The mixed-use program will include a swimming pool, ground floor food market, gym, a hotel, offices, a creche, youth hostel, and set aside 53,800 square feet for social housing. The top floor will also offer panoramic bar and restaurant. Fujimoto, meanwhile, collaborated with revered French product designer Philippe Starck and Manal Rachdi of OXO Architectes. Fujimoto's project will stretch across the Boulevard Périphérique, by the Palais des Congrès de Paris and offer what appears to be a densely packed green roof. Like Chipperfield, Fujimoto dedicated a large portion of his project to social housing. In fact, this will assume 30 percent of the development that will also offer office space, a community center, kindergarten, and play area. The projects are set to cost over $1.46 billion and return $634 million in revenue to the city through the sale or long-term leasing of land. In addition to this, 2,000 over the course of three years are expected to be generated via construction alone.
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Construction wraps up on Moshe Safdie’s Sky Habitat towers in Singapore

Reaching up into the sky in Bishan, Singapore is Moshe Safdie's recently completed development, and aptly named, Sky Habitat. Safdie's design includes walkways that connect the the two structures up to 38 storey's up, offering views across the suburban sprawl of Bishan. Views aren't the only thing offered to residents who take to the bridges at the complex either. As pictured above, a swimming pool spans the majority of the highest bridge (on the 38th floor) complete with palm trees. Below are two more bridges connecting the towers. They provide circulation between the buildings and facilitate airflow through the structures. In fact, ventilation was somewhat of a priority in the context of the Singapore's tropical and climate. As a result, by separating the volumes, Safdie has maximised exposure to each dwelling to combat the humid conditions. That's not to say that they too have been left bereft of vegetation, something which has been a key feature of Safdie's design. The inclusion of such greenery has lead to the bridges being termed as "sky gardens," offering a natural counter to the surrounding urban environment. Bishan, by comparison, is one of Singapore's fastest developing cities. The two volumes of the towers show off a staggered facade that maximizes each dwelling's views and sunlight exposure. Sky Habitat, by name, builds on Safdie's most recognized work, Habitat 67 in Montreal, Canada. Equally hierarchical and arguably more complex, Habitat 67 had its roots in his Master's thesis at McGill University. http://www.skyhabitat.com.sg/assets/video/commercial.mp4
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In gentrifying Brooklyn, illicit luxury housing is sprouting from community gardens

Larceny and deed fraud are on the rise, and those with a mind for leaving confusing trails of paperwork are profiting from illegitimate purchases of land. A classic case of this can be found on Maple Street in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn. https://vimeo.com/6258261 According to a report by The Nation, the area became a tranquil community space in the summer of 2013. Using a lot no bigger than one-eighth of an acre, local residents constructed vegetable patches and seating areas that successfully brought people together to make use of a shared space. The residents' retreat however, was short-lived. The owners,  Joseph (Joe) and Kamran (Mike) Makhani, apparently have a history of using illegitimate signatures to gain property and have even been to prison in the past for selling homes they did not own. Their company name, H.P.D., LLC, is quite similar to the government agency, NYC Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). When questioned in the video above, Joe Makhani said, "if the client is stupid, that's not my problem." Cut to 2014 and the Makhanis show up and start destroying the lot that the residents had carefully made. Ignoring calls to stop, they only do so when the police turn up demanding a court order to prove ownership. The Makhanis promptly left after no document was produced. So what of the significance of this debacle? The sad truth is that these ordeals are cropping up more and more with cases being becoming increasingly complex with name irregularities making documented selling and purchasing of land harder to find. "No one is talking about it, but we're seeing this every day," said Sonia Alleyne told The Nation on behalf of the Department of Finance. "I don't think anyone realizes how big this story is." The ordeal features all the tell-tale signs of larceny and deed fraud. The initial purchase of land from the nephews of the deceased owners for $5,000 (an incredible and questionably low price); Social Security numbers failing to match up; spelling "mistakes" (McKany rather than Makhani); illegible notary names and the fact that the license number isn't even present; traits that, in the City of New York Sheriff Joseph Fucito's eyes, scream fraud. Anyone attempting to investigate ownership/sale history of the land, it seems, is lead down rabbit hole after rabbit hole. Sheriff Fucito stated that 15 deed-fraud arrests were made in in the last year, and that (as of August 2015) his office was on the trail of over 1,000 cases. Gardens in Bushwick and Crown Heights have likewise found themselves embroiled in similar conflicts. Fucido believes that many fraudulent cases go undetected and that the real number of cases is much higher. Why the sudden rise in deed fraud? Gentrification may be partly to blame. Brooklyn residential prices are increasing at an alarming rate, and land with debatable ownership is the perfect target for fraudsters. Experts such as Christie Peale, executive director of the Center for New York City Neighborhoods, say that paperwork is deemed legitimate all too easily. "The problem is this open process that allows people to just walk in and file false instruments," said Peale.