imagining cities

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Urbanisation is important because we can’t keep developing our food basin and we shouldn’t sentence young people to a life in the outskirts of suburbia, cut off from effective transport and services.

City of Sydney Mayor Clover Moore, speaking at the National Press Club

What is the value of public space?

A recent article in land8 asked this question after a stir was caused over the cost of Toronto’s award winning, Sugar Beach.

Formerly a parking lot, and coming in at a cost of $14.1 million, there are those who feel the tax payer funded beach is an example of frivolous spending. However both the designers and Waterfront Toronto have defended the cost.

“Our mandate is to build great parks and public spaces to revitalize the waterfront, to help make the city a better place to live,” said Andrew Hilton of Waterfront Toronto. “These parks do that, by taking what was once dead space and turning it into active, animated spaces that are going to make the area more attractive to developers and people — and that’s exactly what’s happening.”

"You have to look at the return,” explained project landscape architect Mr. Cormier. "The ‘Jackie Kennedy pink’ umbrellas are a unique addition to the city’s urban landscape. They’re elegant. They’re soft. It has a kind of a positive mood and we need positive moods in the city, otherwise everything is so the same.”

I think the success of the space can largely be judged by the design brief. If the intention was to create a high quality public space that would attract waterfront development and people to the area, then by the sounds of it, way to go Toronto! I’d definitely visit Sugar Beach.

Photos | Claude Cormier et Associés

What a gem of an installation. It’s colourful, it lights up, and though you can’t tell from this photo, it’s constructed from unconnected blocks and only appears as the number 4 from a certain viewpoint.

Click through for more number four installations as displayed in front of BBC4 as part of the ‘The Big 4 Project’, celebrating the Channel’s 25th anniversary. 

Towards a New Discipline of Urban Design Vittorio Lampugnani

It’s important to keep learning, even after formal study, so I thought I would share some of my takeaways from this lecture given at the Harvard School of Design by Vittorio Lampugnani.

He begins by speaking about the need to balance the individuality in architecture with the continuity of the city.

Good mannered architecture, he says, is like a good mannered person; someone who talks to other people when they enter a room, doesn’t impose themselves on others, takes responsibility for their situation. A building, Vittorio argues, should do the same thing; talk to its neighbours, adapt, consider itself not an individual, but part of a continuity.

He then presents a case study of his work in the urban design of Novartis Campus in St. Johann, Basel.

Referencing the plans of Selinunte and the Nolli plan of Rome, Vittorio points out the fine grain of the cities, with tightly interconnected public spaces that provide chances to meet, a type of communication infrastructure inviting people to come together.

Inspired by these plans in designing the Campus, Vittorio describes beginning his design first with the public spaces. Next were the streets, where he decided to try and use the old street layout due to infrastructure reasons.

He says that whilst some people might describe the design as being boring or monotonous, the variety of the city is to be generated through the architecture of the buildings, not the city layout.

And this takes us back to his first point about buildings, and how they should talk to their neighbours. The design guidelines for this project required that with the exception of the areas marked for high rises, all other buildings could have a maximum height of 23 metres.

Of course, even with a maximum building height you are not guaranteed coherence in terms of buildings communicating with each other, and I’m sure there were additional conventions he did not mention due to time constraints.

BUT, if we are relying on architecture to create the variety of the city…

How many conventions do we have in architecture (and should we have) so that buildings can be different and still speak a common language, and where is the point that variety becomes disruption?

When you are next walking down a street, consider if what is around you is a collection of architecture or a piece of the city? Is it disruption or coherence? Can disruption be a good thing?

Reading recommendation: Good Manners in Architecture | Trystan Edwards