Tag Archives: spaces

Ada Lovelace day: Jane Jacobs

Today is Ada Lovelace day, a day in which each blogger should talk about a woman who changed the world in her field: a good occasion to talk about the person who gave the biggest contribute to contemporary urbanism, Jane Jacobs.

XIX and early XX century were the century of machines, a century in which the mainstream idea was the possibility to explain everything as the sum of a series of deterministic movements. Cities were explained on the same principles, and deterministic solutions were proposed to solve the problems concerning urban development.

drancy_-_les_premiers_gratte-ciel_de_la_region_parisienne_

(image: wikimedia commons)

Jane Jacobs was the first to show the limits of this approach, showing how it led to a car dependent, socially impoverished society. Against the deterministic approach of mainstream architecture, she proposed an approach based on life sciences,  stating that cities grow in the same way as living organism do.

Most of her battles were against new expressways and neighborhood destructions, and now most of her ideas are supported by the new urbanism and complete streets movements.

For further readings:

How to create a private space without using fences

This image (Geneva, square Pradier, via Microsoft Virtual Earth) shows how to create a calm square and give privacy to a block without using fences or corner buildings. The four external building act as a screen and separate the square from the through traffic of the surrounding roads. Access to the backside of the external buildings is still possible by two straight alleys that run behind the external buildings. The two internal buildings separate these alleys from the central square: to reach the square from the exterior of the block, two turn are always necessary, one from the surrounding roads to the alleys, and a second one from the alley to the square.

Spatial organization and human nature

If we think, like Le Corbusier, that human nature is bad, social interactions can only lead us away from the Truth, thus shall be discouraged. A “bad human nature city” will have freeways with no sidewalk, windows on nature, shopping centers with security guards preventing unwanted behaviours…

If we think, like Jane Jacobs, that human nature is good, social interaction can only bring good things, thus shall be incouraged. A “good human nature city” will have roads full of people, windows on the streets, improvised parties, bars and cafés, flash mobs, free hugs, bicycle races

(source: urban reinventors)

Smart growth goes to Spain

(Photo: Bilbao master plan, 1876. Source: wikipedia)

On 19th century, Spain was one of the leaders in urban development. In almost all towns, a grid-shaped extension (Ensanche) was planned, and in almost all towns, the Ensanche is one of the most vibrant districts.

(photo: plaza de Habana in Gijon. Source: Microsoft Virtual Earth)

150 jears later, Spain goes again. Since 1992, almost all towns in Spain started building new neighborhoods, following the principles of the ancient Ensanche. The result is a serie of dense, transit-oriented neighborhoods, following the principles of Smart Growth.

An overview of all projects is available here.

(source: A Vision Of Europe)

Free hugs campaign: the best example of the Flash Mob test

This video shows a classic of flash mobs, the Free Hugs Campaign, and shows us how the flash mob test reveals the different visions of public space carried by different actors: police officers viewed it just as a circulation space, while users viewed it as a place to meet and as an informal stage. It’s interesting to see how people were likely to defend  meeting space status when it was questioned by police officers.

(source: free hugs campaign)

pedestrian streets

One of the element which can be used to create a downtown is the pedestrian street.

(image: Budapest, Vaci Utca – from wikimedia commons)

A pedestrian street has some characteristic features. Here we can start to explore them:

1) A significant amount of housing all around the street
2) A big attractor (i.e. an university, or some office building) along the street
3) streets open to both cars and pedestrians (boulevards) on the surrounding blocks
4) parking spaces or transit stops all around
5) Landscaping of the street (curved layout, monuments at the two ends, trees)
6) Coffees and bars, possibly with outdoor seating, all along the street
7) Events on the street all around the year (and a “street events” company who organizes these events)

in the next days we’ll see some examples of pedestrian streets.

(source: cooltownstudios)