Arthur F. Wright
“The Cosmology of the Chinese City,” in Skinner, ed., The City in Late Imperial China. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1977.
1.) The Ancient Chinese City as a Cosmo-magical Symbol
Wright notes the significance of the ancient Chinese emperor as a leading power towards the conversion of a profane (hostile) space into sacred (propitious, habitual) space. When we think of sacred space today, we think of spaces affected by tragedy, political, social or cultural events that transform the space from what was once profane and insignificant. An example is the World Trade Center in New York City which was once an icon of world trade and was transformed into a sacred place as a result of a tragedy. Can sacred space be designed in a modern city and still achieve the same affect it had on the ancient Chinese citizens? Or have we lost the power to evoke scariness artificially (without any natural occurrence) in modern times?
2.) In ancient Chinese cities the walls were the first architectural features to be built. They held a fine prominence in the city as they were built to be the tallest structure in the city, higher than the royal palace. This observation means that the frame and internal ordering of the ancient Chinese city tended to be fixed. It is hard to draw a boundary around the cities today (like Cleveland) unless you look on a map. City boundaries are not as significant as they used to be. In fact, when you are driving long distances very rarely do you recognize what city you are driving through. We have lost the ability to differentiate cities. Aspects that define a certain city are mimicked in other cities. As a result, they seem to merge into one another rather than establish their own identity.
3.) The New Downtown
It is obvious from this reading that the shift from downtown to the strip was a result of personal mobility. Spatial order was redefined and shopping centers began appearing in suburban communities. Rybozynski notes the effect that shopping centers had on the community: they became urban places, accommodating more than just retailers; they now functioned like a city. The question immediately becomes quite clear: Rather than relocate the city, in a sense, to new areas of suburban influence, why not redefine the existing city? The answer lies in the fact that people want to feel the benefits of an urban setting without going through the hassle of driving to the city and engaging it entirely. What does this image of the shopping center tell us about the way we should design cities to satisfy the needs of the people?
4.) There is a fine line between an established “downtown” area and a shopping center developed as a “new downtown.” Shopping centers are catered towards the middle-class. They are managed places- strictly policed, regularly cleaned, properly maintained and kept vacant-free- as well as convenient places- they provide you with all your needs in one place- washrooms, food, entertainment and amusement can all be satisfied. Cities, on the other hand, are harder to mage- buildings are left vacant, streets and sidewalks are left dirty, crime is higher and parking is harder to find and usually expensive, and the list goes on. It is no wonder why shopping centers are more attractive. Must cities become more catered towards the middle class in order to achieve the success that shopping centers have been able to maintain?
5.) A Theory of Good City Form
In the case of Boston, transformation from the city to the suburbs is motivated by a variety of factors including the notion of “the control of space in order to control the productive process and its participants.” Cul de sacs, gated communities, walls, gates and the like are aimed at allowing residents to control their space and protect it from outsiders. Again this issue of security comes up in the public realm. We all want to feel the protection of containment- bounded by the walls of our house and the distance from our neighbors. How can we design public spaces while still maintaining some degree of control to satisfy this feeling of containment and thus satisfy the needs of the individuals?
Phillip Myers sat in anticipation. It was the middle of the day and he was sitting in Administrative Law, waiting for his professor to dismiss class. For most people, the day was over at 5:00 PM. They could go home and enjoy the evening by watching an episode of Friends and The Bachelor while eating a cooked meal and enjoying the comfort of a well slept, well planned, and well consumed life. But not law students. Phillips life consisted of a series of study sessions, seminars, and lectures; not to mention his internship at a law firm in Cleveland. He was eager to leave class, eager to set foot outside and dash to the Student Center to grab a bite to eat before his 5:30 class on the 3rd floor.
He waited in silence on the 2nd floor of Bert L. Wolstein Hall, the building dedicated to The College of Law. Moments passed and his professor continued his lecture on hybrid vs. formal rulemaking. Philip was having trouble paying attention; the exam was three weeks away and he had too much on his mind. Thinking about law school got him thinking in all directions. His mind was drawn to other subjects, and his eyes were drawn to other places. He began thinking about the environment around him. The tree out the window, which could be cut and made into rafters. The granite window sill, which was cut and shipped from a quarry. The metal mullions that made up the window seemed to form a frame in his mind, capturing a moment in time.
He looked outside at the busy street and an older man on the sidewalk. He appeared to be in a rush, holding a briefcase and anxious to cross the street. He seemed like he could be a law professor, in his early 60s, with a mind full of data and knowledge, and an appearance that showed it. He was waiting for the light to turn red so he could cross the street. It seemed like he was waiting for hours, and that his whole life depended on that light switching colors. The street formed a boundary, a division between campus, between the “good side” and “bad side,” between the north and south, the bright and dark, and the old and the new. The street felt like more than a street. It was four lanes, sometimes five, but felt like more. It was long and straight and held a solid ground with definition that everyone felt. The reality was that Euclid Ave. divided the campus in two. When you walk outside, you walk in straight lines. When you turn, you turn 90 degrees, much like an how you walk in a building. The street acted like a corridor, and the buildings acted like rooms. The function of the campus relied on that street. It divided and dominated the campus.
Finally, the light turned red but the red hand remained lit. Philip saw the man shaking his head in frustration, eager to continue his pacing across the street. The man immediately began looking for a walk button on a nearby pole as the cars came to a complete stop. Philip gazed toward the comfort inn hotel, the plastic blue and white letters that hung over the parking entrance. The street was littered with construction and imperfections: orange cones, tire treads worn on asphalt overlays and chopped curbs, potholes filled with tar, cracks from the weather, oil stains from a car or truck. It all seemed like a reality that couldn’t be found on a CSU advertisement.
The man waiting in anticipation reminded Phillip of himself. Soon he would be outside in the same spot waiting for the light to allow him to cross the street. Soon he would be pacing down Euclid corridor, waiting for the next bus to take him to his destination. While on the bus his feet would stop pacing and his mind would start. Eager to make the next move, he would begin sorting to-do lists and quoting thoughts from before. The corridor, it seems, was a place for thoughts like these. It was an in-between point. A place to recognize thoughts, even if it was the simple thought of turning your head and making sure there aren’t any cars coming from the other direction, or waiting for a gap in traffic to be able to cross again.
Finally, the red hand diminished and the white person lit up. The old man hesitated in relief and darted across the street to the center island where he made a 90 degree lefthand turn, pacing towards the bus stop. Other people began crossing the street as well, sometimes stopping in the center in hesitation and sometimes continuing without, always in straight lines and always turning only when they reached the island. The corridor seemed to serve its purpose: it interrupted the thoughts in your brain even if only for a brief moment. The boundary divided the environment: the people, the campus, the architecture, and the atmosphere were all affected. As the man stood waiting for the bus he looked at his watch then down the street. Realizing the bus was nowhere in sight and without a moment to spare, he began pacing again across the other side of the street, this time without waiting for a signal to cross. A few seconds later, a car drove past in the spot he once crossed. He immediately took a left-hand turn and continued down the other side of the street, feeling frustrated by the time he lost and the moments he wasted.
Rural-urban categorization system is touted as effective in coding, education, and design. The Transect, a new model for planning and coding the New Urbanism, is beginning to be employed in regional planning. Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company (DPZ) employs transect design and conducts research which was used in our analysis.
This week, we explored the suburbs in greater detail by first establishing a mapping analysis of the different urban systems in the area. Vegetation and natural systems, streets, highways, topo, zoning, and sub-divisions were all incorporated into our study. In an effort to define and recognize open space, we noted areas of future and present open space conditions and recognized the connections that could be gained through the redevelopment or through establishing new open spaces.
Below is pictured a final result of the study:
Orange: Township lines
Purple: Future Open Space
The study was very effective, and by taking out the aerial view I was able to identify relationships better.
In our next series of studies, we conducted an analysis of 2 major transects and 4 minor transects. We established an area of reference, being the Cuyahoga River, and produces diagrams comparing the East side with the West side. We included one natural diagram and one cultural diagram on both sides of the river. The analysis was meant to be abstract and a way to recognize connections.
After a series of transect designs, we conducted a more in-depth analysis of possible areas of open space. We chose 3 areas that incorporated multiple systems. We looked for areas to redefine; make connections. Our first site involved taking an existing wetland and developing a strategy for flood control and stormwater prevention. We also wanted to preserve the existing forest and develop the land to west by turning it into a passive park.
The second site was on the west side of the Cutahoga River as well. We wanted to extend the Buckeye trail to an existing maintained open field and redefine the space to include a recreational park with possible frisby golf, hiking trails, and temporary structures to help benefit the community and to connect the residential areas to the east and west.
The third site was in an industrial region. We looked into vacant and foreclosed buildings and proposed the concept of public space within the boundaries of exterior walls. We felt the idea was weak and involved a lot of research in terms of deconstruction costs and benefits of the space in the area. Considering we have to pull off a final project in three days, we suggested a different route. More information after the break.
1.) When we think about cities today-- composed of a lack of infrastructure, submerged in violent social conflict, bullied by organized crime and sacrificed in the use of high walls, billboards, wide streets parking garages-- the issues discussed in this book seem very far from modern problems. I was skeptical upon reading the book for the first time. However, I can attain that it is our task to give a new meaning to our cities, a meaning which might transcend the conventional aim of fulfilling our everyday duties. The rituals analyzed by Rykwert seem to have this recurring issue of harmonization between the cosmos and the earth, the sacrificed and the mundane, the city and the environment, citizens and institutions, and most importantly, citizens themselves. Harmonization seems to be the key in reestablishing our cities in unity with civilized human experience, as an essential part of our culture.
2.) If harmonization seems to be the key to reestablishing our cities, then how are we as urban designers supposed to A.) address the issues and B.) propose a solution? If the cause of this transformation from harmony to isolation seems to be the age of reason, the Enlightenment, and scientific progress, then is Rykwert suggesting that harmonization is a thing of the past or we must transcend to a new era of social reform?
The Neutral City
3.) I agree with Sennett in that the modern urbanist is in the grip of a protestant ethic of space. The square that once served as a center is no longer a reference point for generating new space. The grid seems to be ideal because it allows for pre-determined units of space to be the measurements of our environment. No longer do modern urbanist resort to the land to dictate their design. The grid forms a natural environment of endless, mindless geometric division. People living within the grid become oblivious to the environment around them and disoriented in their ability to see and evaluate relationships. The grid that we use today is a prototype for urban development because it is a safe and practical solution to an unrecognized problem. Modern urbanists must be able to recognize this problem in the first place before we can begin to address more appropriate solutions.
The Economy of Cities
4.) I believe agriculture is the most primitive form of land development. Industrialization, in most cases, increases agricultural production and provides technology and machinery to rural communities. However, industrialization can also hurt agriculture. Goods that were once produced in farms can now be produced in factories. New machinery and technology makes the work of two men the work of one. Where Jacobs sees the advantages of cities on rural communities, I see the disadvantages. As a result of industry, unskilled laborers move to the city in search for a job with little or no experience in industry and manufacturing and find themselves jobless and worse than before.
5.) The city, as we have mentioned last week, relies on industry and technology to develop new solutions to address population growth and to improve culture. We have noted examples of underdeveloped, over-populated cities that suffer from the lack of industry and technology to advance the economic and social standing of the city. We have also noted how agriculture in Japan, for example, has greatly benefited from industrialization in the city. Can we rely solely on industry and technology to maintain urbanization and an efficient economy within the city? From what Jacobs points out, it seems as if industry is the primary factor in recognizing urbanization within the city.
This week we discussed Open Spaces as an Urban System. Our initial documentation included a site visit to the Suburbs in Northfield. We focused on the Cuyahoga River and the areas within 5 miles to the East and 5 miles to the West. During our site visit, we made observations on the regions/sub-divisions and the land use/ land cover.
We divided the region based on land use and land cover to start to analyze the various site conditions and regions that occupy inhabitants/ buildable/ developed spaces. We noticed the signage for different sub-divisions and started to document how land was being divided and segregated. More results to come next week.
DPZ architects and their research on transect design from"Lexicon for the New Urbanism" can be found here:
This week in studio we focused on transportation as an urban system. We conducted several analysis/research/mapping investigations in which we analyzed the various forms of transportation: vehicular, pedestrian, bus transit, ship/boat, and plane. To begin my analysis, I conducted a site visit to the West side of Cleveland. I documented Vehicular and Pedestrian traffic and circulation patterns.
From here, we were able to determine a hypothesis. I focused on vehicular traffic. As a result of the site visit, I began mapping traffic densities. I used the Cleveland Traffic Report as my resource.
I conducted further research on street construction because I believe it is important to know the cost and type of resources/labor/materials that goes into streets and highways. I found a lot of information on Concrete vs. Asphalt. In general, I tried to focus on the benefits of using concrete vs. asphalt.
As a studio, we decided to focus on the city of Lakewood and how we could address Transit Oriented Design (TOD). We focused on minimizing the use of cars and instead proposing an alternative public transportation solution (bike, bus, train). First, we conducted research on the various systems in Lakewood. We determined the guidelines for TOD and presented precedents in class. I chose to focus on points of interest in Lakewood. More information to come next week.
Brandon E. Young