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Experiencing Aural Architecture

We experience spaces not only by seeing but also by listening. We can navigate a room in the dark, and "hear" the emptiness of a house without furniture. Our experience of music in a concert hall depends on whether we sit in the front row or under the balcony. The unique acoustics of religious spaces acquire symbolic meaning. Social relationships are strongly influenced by the way that space changes sound. In Spaces Speak, Are You Listening?, Barry Blesser and Linda-Ruth Salter examine auditory spatial awareness: experiencing space by attentive listening. Every environment has an aural architecture.The audible attributes of physical space have always contributed to the fabric of human culture, as demonstrated by prehistoric multimedia cave paintings, classical Greek open-air theaters, Gothic cathedrals, acoustic geography of French villages, modern music reproduction, and virtual spaces in home theaters. Auditory spatial awareness is a prism that reveals a culture's attitudes toward hearing and space. Some listeners can learn to "see" objects with their ears, but even without training, we can all hear spatial geometry such as an open door or low ceiling.Integrating contributions from a wide range of disciplines--including architecture, music, acoustics, evolution, anthropology, cognitive psychology, audio engineering, and many others--Spaces Speak, Are You Listening? establishes the concepts and language of aural architecture. These concepts provide an interdisciplinary guide for anyone interested in gaining a better understanding of how space enhances our well-being. Aural architecture is not the exclusive domain of specialists. Accidentally or intentionally, we all function as aural architects.

Architect Léon Krier’s doodles, drawings, and ideograms make arguments in images, without the circumlocutions of prose. Drawn with wit and grace, these clever sketches do not try to please or flatter the architectural establishment. Rather, they make an impassioned argument against what Krier sees as the unquestioned doctrines and unacknowledged absurdities of contemporary architecture. Thus he shows us a building bearing a suspicious resemblance to Norman Foster’s famous London “gherkin” as an example of “priapus hubris” (threatened by detumescence and “priapus nemesis”); he charts “Random Uniformity” (“fake simplicity”) and “Uniform Randomness” (“fake complexity”); he draws bloated “bulimic” and disproportionately scrawny “anorexic” columns flanking a graceful “classical” one; and he compares “private virtue” (modernist architects’ homes and offices) to “public vice” (modernist architects’ “creations”).

 

Krier wants these witty images to be tools for re-founding traditional urbanism and architecture. He argues for mixed-use cities, of “architectural speech” rather than “architectural stutter,” and pointedly plots the man-vehicle-landneed ratio of “sub-urban man” versus that of a city dweller. In an age of energy crisis, he writes (and his drawings show), we “build in the wrong places, in the wrong patterns, materials, densities, and heights, and for the wrong number of dwellers”; a return to traditional architectures and building and settlement techniques can be the means of ecological reconstruction. Each of Krier’s provocative and entertaining images is worth more than a thousand words of theoretical abstraction.

Writing Architecture series

A Guide to 21st-Century Space

What is a camp? In August 2005, television news showed viewers an estimated 20,000 Katrina evacuees camped out in the Superdome, Cindy Sheehan protesting the Iraq War on President Bush's doorstep in "Camp Casey," Texas, and Israeli and Palestinian young people at the Seeds of Peace Camp in Maine discussing the evacuation of settlement camps in the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, off camera, summer campers all over America packed up their gear, preparing to depart Scout camps, computer camps, and sports camps, and millions of recreational vehicles owners were on the road, permanent itinerant campers. In Camps, Charlie Hailey examines the space and idea of camp as a defining dimension of 21st-century life.

The ubiquity and diversity of camps calls for a guidebook. This is what Hailey offers, but it is no ordinary one. Not only does he establish a typology of camps, but he also embeds within his narrative a key to camp ideology. Thus we see how camp spaces are informed by politics and transform the ways we think about and make built environments. Hailey describes camps of diverse regions, purposes, and forms, and navigates the inherent paradoxes of zones that are neither temporary nor permanent: camps of choice, including summer camps, protest camps, drift camps (research stations on Arctic ice floes), and LTVA (Long-Term Visitor Area) Camps; strategic camps regulated by power—boot camps, GTMO (the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay), immigrant camps, and others;—and transient spaces of relief and assistance, among them refugee camps, FEMA City, work camps, and Gypsy camps. More than 150 diagrams, sketches, building and site plans, photographs, political cartoons, video game screenshots, aerial and satellite images, and maps illustrate camp space in unprecedented complexity and variety.

Today camps are at the center of emerging questions of identity, residency, safety, and mobility. Camp spaces register the struggles, emergencies, and possibilities of global existence as no other space does.

The Making of a High-Performance Building

The story of the Adam Joseph Lewis Center at Oberlin College--the first substantially green building to be built on a college campus--encompasses more than the particulars of one building. In Design on the Edge, David Orr writes about the planning and design of Oberlin's environmental studies building as part of a larger story about the art and science of ecological design and the ability of institutions of higher learning themselves to learn.The Lewis Center, which has attracted worldwide attention as a model of ecological design, operates according to environmental principles. It is powered entirely by solar energy, features landscaping with fruit trees and vegetable gardens, and houses a Living Machine, which processes all wastewater for reuse in the building or landscape. Orr puts the Lewis Center into historical design context and describes the obstacles and successes he encountered in obtaining funds and college approval, interweaving the particulars of the center with thoughts on the larger environmental and societal issues the building process illustrates.Equal parts analysis, personal reflection, and call to action, Design on the Edge illustrates the process of institutional change, institutional learning, and the political economy of design. It describes how the idea of the Lewis Center originated and was translated into reality with the help of such environmental visionaries as William McDonough and John Todd, and how the building has performed since its completion.College and university administrators will spend 17 billion dollars on new buildings over the next few years. Design on the Edge is essential reading for architects, planners, and environmentalists who need to sell the innovations of ecological design to wary institutions, and for educators and students whose profession is undermined by the very buildings they work in--and for anyone who has ever tried to change an organization for the better.

The Yale Architectural Journal

This edition of Perspecta, the oldest and most distinguished student-edited architectural journal in America, investigates the transformation of capital cities in the era of globalization. This redevelopment, renewal, and recycling of the urban landscape--termed by the editors as “Re_Urbanism”--takes place as capital cities try both to cater to an influx of global capital and to reassert their roles as symbols of national sovereignty. Re_Urbanism investigates this process from an architectural perspective. The contributors explore the various ways capital cities struggle to assert their vitality and continuing relevance, examining capitals that compete internally with their own global counterparts (Abu Dhabi vs. Dubai), capitals that must be rebuilt after periods of destruction (Belgrade and Baghdad), and capital cities that are responding to hyperbolic development (Beijing, New Delhi, Kuwait City). Some cities are examined for their impact on border politics (Washington D.C.) while others reveal mythologies parallel to their modernist origins (Brasilia).

Nature and Community in the Global City

Los Angeles--the place without a sense of place, famous for sprawl and overdevelopment and defined by its car-clogged freeways--might seem inhospitable to ideas about connecting with nature and community. But in Reinventing Los Angeles, educator and activist Robert Gottlieb describes how imaginative and innovative social movements have coalesced around the issues of water development, cars and freeways, and land use, to create a more livable and sustainable city. Gottlieb traces the emergence of Los Angeles as a global city in the twentieth century and describes its continuing evolution today. He examines the powerful influences of immigration and economic globalization as they intersect with changes in the politics of water, transportation, and land use, and illustrates each of these core concerns with an account of grass roots and activist responses: efforts to reenvision the concrete-bound, fenced-off Los Angeles River as a natural resource; “Arroyofest,” the closing of the Pasadena Freeway for a Sunday of walking and bike riding; and immigrants’ initiatives to create urban gardens and connect with their countries of origin. Reinventing Los Angeles is a unique blend of personal narrative (Gottlieb himself participated in several of the grass roots actions described in the book) and historical and theoretical discussion. It provides a road map for a new environmentalism of everyday life, demonstrating the opportunities for renewal in a global city.Robert Gottlieb is Henry R. Luce Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Director of the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College in Los Angeles. He is the author of Environmentalism Unbound: Exploring New Pathways for Change (MIT Press), Forcing the Spring: The Transformation of the American Environmental Movement, and other books.

Understanding Cities with Cellular Automata, Agent-Based Models, and Fractals

As urban planning moves from a centralized, top-down approach to a decentralized, bottom-up perspective, our conception of urban systems is changing. In Cities and Complexity, Michael Batty offers a comprehensive view of urban dynamics in the context of complexity theory, presenting models that demonstrate how complexity theory can embrace a myriad of processes and elements that combine into organic wholes. He argues that bottom-up processes -- in which the outcomes are always uncertain -- can combine with new forms of geometry associated with fractal patterns and chaotic dynamics to provide theories that are applicable to highly complex systems such as cities.

Batty begins with models based on cellular automata (CA), simulating urban dynamics through the local actions of automata. He then introduces agent-based models (ABM), in which agents are mobile and move between locations. These models relate to many scales, from the scale of the street to patterns and structure at the scale of the urban region. Finally, Batty develops applications of all these models to specific urban situations, discussing concepts of criticality, threshold, surprise, novelty, and phase transition in the context of spatial developments. Every theory and model presented in the book is developed through examples that range from the simplified and hypothetical to the actual. Deploying extensive visual, mathematical, and textual material, Cities and Complexity will be read both by urban researchers and by complexity theorists with an interest in new kinds of computational models.

Sample chapters and examples from the book, and other related material, can be found at http://www.complexcity.info

Architecture and the Visual Arts

In this thoughtful collection of essays on the relationship of architecture and the arts, Giuliana Bruno addresses the crucial role that architecture plays in the production of art and the making of public intimacy. As art melts into spatial construction and architecture mobilizes artistic vision, Bruno argues, a new moving spacea screen of vital cultural memoryhas come to shape our visual culture. Taking on the central topic of museum culture, Bruno leads the reader on a series of architectural promenades from modernity to our times. Through these "museum walks," she demonstrates how artistic collection has become a culture of recollection, and examines the public space of the pavilion as reinvented in the moving-image art installation of Turner Prize nominees Jane and Louise Wilson. Investigating the intersection of science and art, Bruno looks at our cultural obsession with techniques of imaging and its effect on the privacy of bodies and space. She finds in the work of artist Rebecca Horn a notable combination of the artistic and the scientific that creates an architecture of public intimacy. Considering the role of architecture in contemporary art that refashions our "lived space"and the work of contemporary artists including Rachel Whiteread, Mona Hatoum, and Guillermo KuitcaBruno argues that architecture is used to define the frame of memory, the border of public and private space, and the permeability of exterior and interior space. Architecture, Bruno contends, is not merely a matter of space, but an art of time.

The Racial Politics of Urban Health and Environmental Justice

Racial minority and low-income communities often suffer disproportionate effects of urban environmental problems. Environmental justice advocates argue that these communities are on the front lines of environmental and health risks. In Noxious New York, Julie Sze analyzes the culture, politics, and history of environmental justice activism in New York City within the larger context of privatization, deregulation, and globalization. She tracks urban planning and environmental health activism in four gritty New York neighborhoods: Brooklyn's Sunset Park and Williamsburg sections, West Harlem, and the South Bronx. In these communities, activism flourished in the 1980s and 1990s in response to economic decay and a concentration of noxious incinerators, solid waste transfer stations, and power plants. Sze describes the emergence of local campaigns organized around issues of asthma, garbage, and energy systems, and how, in each neighborhood, activists framed their arguments in the vocabulary of environmental justice.Sze shows that the linkage of planning and public health in New York City goes back to the nineteenth century's sanitation movement, and she looks at the city's history of garbage, sewage, and sludge management. She analyzes the influence of race, family, and gender politics on asthma activism and examines community activists' responses to garbage privatization and energy deregulation. Finally, she looks at how activist groups have begun to shift from fighting particular siting and land use decisions to engaging in a larger process of community planning and community-based research projects. Drawing extensively on fieldwork and interviews with community members and activists, Sze illuminates the complex mix of local and global issues that fuels environmental justice activism.

Siegfried Kracauer and Modern Urban Culture

For Siegfried Kracauer, the urban ornament was not just an aspect of design; it was the medium through which city dwellers interpreted the metropolis itself. In Ornaments of the Metropolis, Henrik Reeh traces variations on the theme of the ornament in Kracauer's writings on urbanism, from his early journalism in Germany between the wars to his "sociobiography" of Jacques Offenbach in Paris. Kracauer (1889-1966), often associated with the Frankfurt School and the intellectual milieu of Walter Benjamin, is best known for his writings on cinema and the philosophy of history. Reeh examines Kracauer's lesser-known early work, much of it written for the trendsetting newspaper Frankfurter Zeitung in the 1920s and early 1930s, and analyzes Kracauer's continuing reflections on modern urban life, through the pivotal idea of ornament. Kracauer deciphers the subjective experience of the city by viewing fragments of the city as dynamic ornaments; an employment exchange, a day shelter for the homeless, a movie theater, and an amusement park become urban microcosms.

Reeh focuses on three substantial works written by Kracauer before his emigration to the United States in 1940. In the early autobiographical novel Ginster, Written by Himself, a young architect finds aesthetic pleasure in the ornamental forms that are largely unused in the profession of the time. The collection Streets of Berlin and Elsewhere, with many essays from Kracauer's years in Berlin, documents the subjectiveness of urban life. Finally, Jacques Offenbach and the Paris of His Time shows how the superficial—in a sense, ornamental—milieu of the operetta evolved into a critical force during the Second Empire. Reeh argues that Kracauer's novel, essays, and historiography all suggest ways in which the subjective can reappropriate urban life. The book also includes a series of photographs by the author that reflect the ornamental experience of the metropolis in Paris, Frankfurt, and other cities.

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