The protective fortress, winding cobblestone streets, and medieval urban layout are all characteristics of many coastal European towns. But when exploring the French town of Saint-Malo, it is difficult to believe that this is hardly the original city. What separates Saint-Malo from many other European towns located by the sea—aside from its striking location jutting out from the coastline—is the complex history of how it was heavily destroyed in World War II, but rebuilt to its original aesthetic.
This Medieval Walled Town with a Storied History Shows How Traditional Urbanism Can Support High Density
Ranking cities is a risky endeavor. How can one be objective and fair when this great earth and its 7.6 billion inhabitants would never come to anything close to a consensus? And yet global consulting firm Resonance Consultancy has taken on the challenge based on the opinions of the people they claim matter most: "a city's visitors and its residents."
Surveying the inhabitants and tourists about 23 different factors (that are then grouped into six key categories—Place, Product, Programming, People, Prosperity and Promotion), the methodology aims to be comprehensive in the ranking of quality of place and reputation. In the people category, for example, the surveyors looked at things like the immigration rate and diversity of a city, including number of Foreign-born Residents. Also taken into consideration was the amount of "stories" or "mentions" a city generates on web platforms like Facebook, Google and even TripAdvisor. And, most relevant to us architects, cities were scored on their quality of neighborhoods, landmarks and parks.
To speak of Paul Rudolph’s illustrious career is to trace a grand arc stretching from the 1940s to the 1990s. More often than not, the popular narrative begins with his student days at Harvard under the tutelage of Walter Gropius, touches upon his earliest, much-loved Florida beach houses, circles around his eventual break from the rigidity of both the Sarasota School and the International Style, and finally races towards the apex: his chairmanship of the Yale School of Architecture, and the concurrent shift to a Brutalist architectural style characterized by monumental forms, rugged concrete, and interwoven, multilevelled spaces awash with a remarkable interplay of light. Then comes the fall from grace: the beloved Yale Art and Architecture Building went up in flames just as the architecture profession began to question modernist ideals, and eventually Postmodernism was ushered in. Flickering, sputtering, Rudolph's grand narrative arc lurched towards Southeast Asia, bearing away the “martyred saint.” Save for several scattered commissions in the United States, Rudolph spent the last two decades of his life building abroad, mostly across Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Singapore, until his death in 1997.
But of course, time and again, historians have sought to challenge the myth of the failed architect by rereading his understudied work from the late years. Adding to this growing corpus of fresh research and alternate perspectives is architectural photographer Darren Soh’s ongoing project documenting—so far—three of Rudolph’s major works in Southeast Asia: The Colonnade (1986) and The Concourse (1994) in Singapore, and the Intiland Tower (1997) in Surabaya, Indonesia.
Today, November 8, we celebrate World Urbanism Day. Created in 1949 by Carlos Maria della Paolera, a professor at the University of Buenos Aires, the day was meant to increase professional and public interest in planning, both locally and internationally. Paolera is also responsible for designing the symbol of World Urbanism Day, representing the trilogy of natural elements essential to life: the sun (in yellow), vegetation (in green) and air (in blue), referring to the balance between the natural environment and humans. Currently, the event is celebrated in thirty countries on four continents.
Amazon’s open call for bids for its new headquarters, HQ2, closed last month, but in the months leading up to the final decision in 2018, analysts will continue to flood the internet with detailed studies evaluating who they believe should be the winner. In other words, the mirror-mirror-on-the-wall game for cities is just starting to warm up.
Earlier, ArchDaily reported on the data-driven approach adopted by Moody’s Analytics which projected Austin, TX as the winner. But another study by IT education company Thinkful now points towards Washington DC as the city most likely to make the cut. So what makes Washington DC the fairest of them all? Read on to see how data science techniques helped analysts at Thinkful with this prediction, what kind of approach they adopted, and how it differed from that of Moody’s Analytics.
This interview was initially published in Spanish by City Manager as “Jan Gehl, ciudades para la gente.”
Jah Gehl is recognized as a follower of Jane Jacobs, the “grandmother” of urbanism and humanist planning. He has been a professor at the Danish Real Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen and visiting professor in Canada, the United States, New Zealand, Mexico, Australia, Belgium, Germany, Poland, and Norway. In 2000, he created his own consultancy along with Helle Søholt, Gehl Architects, in Denmark, where he completed diverse urban projects from around the world using data and strategic analysis.
The below text comes from an interview with the Danish architect, theorist and world leader in urban development, and promoter, following Jane Jacobs, of the human scale in the design of public spaces.
The Top 10 Predicted Cities for Amazon's HQ2 (And Why HQ2 Will Be a Major Urban Catalyst for the Winner)
The bidding process for HQ2, Amazon's second headquarters in North America, reached a crescendo last week as the submission deadline drew close. While 238 American cities scrambled to submit proposals and run campaigns in the hope to woo Amazon—or as Slate witheringly described the process, "The Bachelor: Corporate America Edition"—the internet abounded with all sorts of discussions on the project. Does our city have what it takes to house the second headquarters? How would HQ2 affect the selected city? Why are smaller cities submitting proposals when they clearly don’t meet the criteria? Can we predict which cities are more likely to make the cut?
Tristram Hunt—director of London's Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A)—has expressed concern about one of the city's most successful semi-pedestrianized zones: Exhibition Road in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. As reported by The Art Newspaper, Hunt has argued that the traffic arrangements are “confusing, dangerous and unsatisfactory”. His answer, following a traffic collision on October 7, 2017, which injured 11 people, is to fully pedestrianize the area.
After winning a recent international design competition, EID Architecture out of Shanghai aims to redefine high-density mixed-use development in Asia through their design for the OCT Xi’an International Center (OXIC) in Xi’an, China. The architects consider their approach an exploration of vertical urbanism; the project consists of a 320-meter tall tower for offices and a boutique hotel, a 220-meter tall apartment tower, and a 12-floor podium full of retail and entertainment spaces. Visualized as an icon and cultural landmark, the design is strategically organized horizontally and vertically to create a vibrant, permeable urban center.
This article was originally published by Common Edge as "Why Can’t We Create Brand New Walkable Communities?"
I have lived in neighborhoods where you can walk around, to a store, a movie, a restaurant, for 40 years, counting my college days. I grew up in a ranch house with a driveway, but came to adulthood in foot-based parts of cities.
Others have also rediscovered the joys and benefits of walkable places. They have done this first in a trickle, then in a flood. While in total numbers it may still be a minority taste, it’s a fashionable taste now, one heralded in movies and TV shows. Fewer people aspire to live in the big house with the three-car garage.
As urban areas develop, each city forms a unique structural logic. With this structure usually conceived on an ad-hoc basis, political terms such as “metropolitan area” and “neighborhood” are not always useful when analyzing and comparing the performance of cities. In a quest for new analytical tools, Robin Renner has devised an anatomically-based classification system in his new book Urban Being: Anatomy & Identity of the City. Through a thoughtful investigation of existing urban areas from around the globe using satellite images and personal experiences, Urban Being offers an insight into how transportation networks and streetscapes can be best organized to promote a healthy metropolitan environment.
Renner’s analysis ranges from macro-regions that can even cross country borders to the defined spaces between arterial roads in cities, which he calls "urban cells." As the neighborhoods and units in which inhabitants reside, urban cells are important when examining the identity and efficiency of a city. They are defined by both their physical properties and the actions that take place inside of them. Below is a small sample of how Renner analyzes urban cells from the book.
The people of Manchester, UK, recently gained access to an entirely new way to access local news and engage with their city: OtherWorld, a pilot news experiment from startup studio Like No Other and Google’s Digital News Initiative. OtherWorld uses Bluetooth and cutting-edge beacon technology to deliver geo-located news directly to your smartphone for free, without installing an app. Referred to on the OtherWorld website as “living media,” as users walk around the city and pass by story locations, a silent notification will pop up on their phones, disappearing again as they walk out of range. Because the news you see on OtherWorld is directly related to the space you’re currently occupying, the system ensures that the news you’ll see is relevant to you. This unobtrusive method allows users to choose whether and how they will engage as well as adding an evanescent, elusive quality to the stories; you could walk right by and miss one if you aren’t paying attention.
In this way, OtherWorld illustrates the layers of our cities that are often invisible to us, bringing them into focus and allowing a deeper level of exploration into even a familiar city neighborhood. Focusing on stories that involve a real-world experience, users could become aware of an event nearby, a volunteer opportunity, a public meeting, or any number of other possibilities—thereby involving themselves in the public space and public realm in a way they would not have otherwise been able to.
When working in an urban area with a complex topography, one of the biggest challenges is urban integration. Worldwide, many socially deprived neighborhoods are situated in complicated geographical locations surrounded by steep slopes. Such areas complicate mobility for pedestrians, cyclists, and the elderly, with a lack of accessibility often excluding them from taking part in city life effectively.
In this context, urban elevators can be a novel solution which combine elements of both functional connectivity and sculpture. With some rising up to 30 meters in height, they become urban and touristic landmarks, creating new viewpoints and walkways. Additionally, in many cases, they can help to uphold the historic legacy of the city.
Below we have collected some interesting examples of urban elevators that have been key in the spatial planning of the urban environment.
At times, Landscape design lacks proper consideration or its overlooked within architecture, as a result of current but preconceived notions within architectural practice and education that privilege building over site, or the constructed over the existing. While at face value, landscape is treated as an abject and constant entity of sorts, the reality is that it possesses a layered complexity of patterns and ecosystems, much of which is increasingly impacted by our own actions, more significantly than what meets the eye.
At the same time, the definition of landscape is constantly evolving to encompass a greater number of influences and factors. We have cultural, built and ecological landscapes, which influence one another and come about as a result of the intersection between the architecture and the environment that we are presented with. As a result, it is important to view terrain in a more holistic light, acknowledging its ecological underpinnings and well as the anthropological effects it is subject to, both physically and theoretically. Here is a list of five online resources, which investigate the interdisciplinary nature of landscape design and its relation to architecture and culture.
We know perfectly well that learning in architecture and urbanism can take on multiple forms. Just think of all the modeling, drawing, plans, theoretical classes, workshops, 3D models and even virtual reality exercises. In this same line, the team at a+t architecture publishers have put together a collection of cards that seek to facilitate the designing of an urban block with 50 design styles.
Each card measures 13 x 8 cm and is printed on both sides, with a version in English and Spanish. Also, each design includes its axonometric profile, general layout, shade patterns, use coefficient and total built space in both meters and feet.
On Thursday 29 of June, Jan Gehl the Danish architect and urban planner, spoke at the Conference “Thinking urban: cities for people” organised by UN-Habitat and the Official Architects College of Madrid (COAM as it is abbreviated in Spanish) about the urban transformations that have occurred in Copenhagen as a result of the errors of the modernist movement and the challenges facing the cities in the 21st century.
In a prior discussion with José María Ezquiaga (dean of COAM), and José Manuel Calvo (councilor of the Sustainable Development Area at the Madrid city council) at the Conference, Gehl highlighted the urban paradigm at the time of his student years, which is referred to as the Brasilia syndrome.
Now in its sixth year in its home city of Prague, reSITE is a conference that has consistently taken a broad view of urban issues, bringing together the largest concentration of the world’s top architects, urbanists, urban planners, landscape architects, and economists under umbrella topics such as Cities in Migration (2016), The Sharing City (2015), and Cities and Landscapes of the New Economy (2014). However, when it comes to events like this, such broad-ranging ambition can be a double-edged sword, flattening and obscuring the nitty gritty details of complex issues. Perhaps reflecting a concern that cities and the challenges they face be seen in full, reSITE 2017’s chosen theme was In/Visible City.
That particular lens reflects a shift in recent years for events such as this to bring into focus that which has typically remained firmly out of view: infrastructure. An allusion to the technical was manifest in the conference’s visual identity: a human heart, with pipe-like arteries and vegetation growing in between the cracks. The heart is to the body like infrastructure is to the city – but just as the body is much more than its circulatory system, the infrastructure cities depend upon is not limited to the obvious, billion-dollar construction projects that make headlines. Urban infrastructure spans all scales and numerous disciplines, ranging from design details to the small print in city policy. In/visible City brought forth the invisible features that give shape to the visible city demonstrating that cultural vitality, social fabric and citizen participation are infrastructural as well.
Ah, Invisible Cities. For many of us, Italo Calvino’s 1972 novel reserves a dear place in our libraries, architectural or otherwise, for its vivid recollections of cities and their curiosities, courtesy of a certain Marco Polo as he narrates to Kublai Khan. And while the book doesn’t specifically fit the bill in terms of conventional architectural writing, it resists an overall categorisation at all, instead superseding the distillation of the cities it contains into distinct boundaries and purposes.
For though there is a certain kind of sensory appeal that is captured in the details of places, the real beauty of Invisible Cities lies in the masking of underlying notions of time, identity and language within these details – a feat that is skillfully accomplished by both Marco and Calvino. With this in mind, here are three of many such principles, as revealed by the layered narrative of Invisible Cities.