Archive for ‘Design/Architecture’

May 14, 2012

The renewal of urban waterways through art, design and architecture – Anna

My research paper focuses on the renewal of urban waterways through art, design, and architecture. To explore this theme, I focused on a great variety of contemporary projects, through the lens of three problems addressed in the various projects, that of:

– making the water more visible and present;

– being able to see and perceive the city that surrounds the waterway differently through the renovation of the waterway;

– being able to understand the potential use of the waterway in question.

I tried to be as varied as possible in the projects I chose to focus on, and to include large-scale projects as well as smaller ones; to find some that were independently pursued by artists, for example, and other large scale ones that were funded by the state or the city. I also paid great attention to the context of the project, where in the history of the place, the endeavor came in, and where the site is, spatially (geographically as well as socially).

Finally, drawing on all the themes and questions raised by the different projects, I also focused my attention onto a larger project that Emma had talked about last February on the blog, the Cheonggyecheon stream renovation project.

Here are pictures of the ten projects that I focused on in my paper (between 1 and 3 pictures of each project, and 5 of the Cheonggyecheon stream in the slideshow):

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Issues raised in my paper include the different ways professionals have managed to re-think how people already interact with and perceive the water, and the different ways they found to change those relationships and interactions, such as various architectural structures, objects, and lighting. Also discussed are the existing ecosytems, and the didactic message carried out by the projects themselves.

May 4, 2012

Designers and Architects: The problem of being aware of the extent to which what we produce has an impact on society.-Anna

Just the same way as we think of grass as being “green” because we associate it with a so-called “nature”, many objects and buildings have been designed in order to reflect take advantage of this tendency of ours to go towards the ecological. But the problem with that is that people often stay on the surface of the object or the building, on the aesthetic of it. A whole new wave of design has, for the last couple of years, reflected our craze to strive towards the ‘ethically correct” by proposing objects that reflect and propose commodities that are seemingly moral.


We do not want to serve big industries which crush smaller businesses, taking over the market, and, on top of that, employing cheap labor in far-away countries. Instead, we want to benefit the whole society…Now that the old, formally valued capitalist form has imploded, new capitalists that are under cover have immerged. Take TOMS shoes, for example: It proposes to shoe one person in an “under-developed” country for each pair of shoes you buy; or Starbucks which works with equitable commerce.

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Lets come back to the theme of nature, which has become, over the last couple of years the object of study for many designers: nature has become a branding source of inspiration. We see nature only through its pristine beauty, but not for what it is. Designers now are doing the same as designers (if we can call them that…), artists and architects during the period of the art nouveaux did. Except that now, they carry broader implication which designers have, for the most part (I will not say for all), not yet understood or realized: It is creating a whole market of commodities which are based on aesthetics but are not taking in account the implications of the message that they their objects may carry: We are buying objects that represent a far-away idealized nature, but also because we think that by doing so we are supporting it. We want to preserve it, but what we are doing is encouraging both a false, separated version of it (an idealized version, which does not go in the direction of preserving it, as we have seen in class) and are satisfying our desires of ecologically correct through object which, in reality, are not sustainable at all(examples of really cool looking designs, which, for the most part are all about the esthetics and how “cool” they look:

Here is an excelent talk about the role of the architect and the impact of architecture and public spaces on society:

The issue which links all these problems is our inability to see in depth, what is hidden behind all of this branding, and the implications of objects, which should not be seen as separate, themselves from the people who are buying and using them: We are not able to see that behind this beautiful cover of excessively granny-weedy-planty-organiquy design is a building which’s greeny façade is, in fact, entirely made of glass, and which’s shapes are all about aesthetics, but not about function. Designers and architects are creating symbols which’s depth and influence on the consumer-user (even if unconscious), they are not always able to grasp on.

April 23, 2012

Interacting with fountains – Anna

When I went to Boston, just before coming to Bard, last summer, my favorite moment in the couple of days I was in the city was when I saw the Rose Kennedy Greenway fountain. Seeing all these children playing with the water, and constantly being exited, scared, running around etc was absolutely delightful. But it was also a real revelation to me: Not only were children running around ON the fountain, but it was actually designed purposefully FOR people to interact with the fountain. For me, this was a totally foreign concept: All of the fountains I had seen so far, had always been beautiful sculptures, meant to be admired from afar,  sculptures. If one had any contact with them, it was to drink from them (In Rome, for example, a city  filled with small fountains, they have filled a historical role as the main source of drinkable water to the population as a whole, which would not otherwise necessarily have access to it), and tolerated was leaning against them, but even dipping one’s toe is usually prohibited. And here I was with people IN the fountain.

For me this is particularly exhilarating because I come from a culture which uncomfortable with the very notion of interacting with nature in the Urban landscape: Parks are strictly fenced, even when with low, small barriers, one knows that he-she is not to go on the grass(one of the reasons being the so-called delicacy of it. Most of the time, a lawn will carry the sign “Au repos”- “resting”). For this reason we have benches and ironl chairs, in the Tuileries or Luxembourg, or Palais Royale gardens for example. There will be this flamboyant fresh grass in front of you, but you have to stick to the iron chairs.

This idea of not interacting with the water is something I have often thought about when seeing the I.M Pei fountains outside of the Louvre: Their general shape is that of triangles, but the lanes separating them are so narrow, that sometimes it feels(especially when it is really hot, and the air makes things a little blurry) like people are in the water! Most of the time though, unfortunately, it is only an illusion.

The idea of having people in the water, actually, has been brought to France! I went to a conference  two years ago, given by the highly influential landscape designer Michel Corajoud, who directed the re-habilitation of the Garonne  banks in the city of Bordeaux. The part of the project he talked about was one that he lead in collaboration with the fountain designer Jean-Max Llorca. On the Place de la Bourse(name of teh square), every 15 minutes the stone is covered by 2 centimeters of water, which then reflect the surrounding architecture. After that, the water drains through small holes, while new water is sprayed in the air, creating a mist. The whole is controlled by computer systems, and the water is stored in an under-ground system. The rediscovery of water, and of the architecture, through the use of the water, is fantastic. But, as a video on youtube said, what really is amazing is the sense of magic, of fun, and most of all, of liberty.

April 16, 2012

Waterway within the Villette Park – Anna

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The parc de la Villette is situated in the far North-Est part of Paris (19th arr.), on the land that used to be the largest slaughterhouse of Paris which covers 125 acres of land. It was created as a high-point of culture, housing the Paris conservatory of music, a large music museum, a science and engineering museum, and numerous theaters, concert halls, book-stores and cultural centers, as well as many different thematic gardens and playgrounds, and occupied by several large open spaces which accommodate free concerts and film screenings. It is right on the Ourcq Canal, which streams down to the Canal de la Loire, and then to the famous Canal St-Martin, going through popular but very dynamic and emerging neighborhoods. It is lined up by many bars and cultural centers.

In 1982 Bernard Tschumi won a competition to design and oversee the conceptualization and construction of the Park. As part of the design, he envisioned a grid made-up of red structures which would both mark the different points in the park, but also accommodate facilities. He also imagined many different spaces to implement around the existing buildings. Here, I will focus on the place that the infrastructures around the waterway take in the Park.

Many of the structure are rather elusive as to their actual functionality, and resemble more demonstration of architectural beauty and artistic expression. They actually hold many different functions, such as toilets, administrative buildings, and vending points to sell food especially useful during outdoors events. With their very blunt, red color, they create a network that is very recognizable, and create a real unity within the different places. They also hint at the theme of slaughterhouse, which is present if one actually pays attention to the different historically preserved parts of the sites, such as the paved areas, the rails, and the large storing houses. But what is overly shocking is how frank the color is considering the background, environment that surround it which’s color is precisely the complementary color of red: green. Although many of gardens do seem quite “wild”, the concept of the Villette actually acknowledges its position as being manmade, the garden as being the product of a conscious cultured, human mind. Each garden has a theme, such as “the garden of shadows”, the “mirror garden”, the “garden of childhood fears”…T he park is subtlety design to create a true work of explicit and fully accepted collaboration between the man-made and “natural” elements.

It is very interesting to see how both the natural elements and that which were provided by the architect function together. The riverside is lined by a paved way and a structure which is very industrial inspired, with its steel structures and the receptiveness of its elements of construction. But the structure plays a double function: It both creates a shelter from rain and/or sun, and is a balcony, from which people can also stroll. The Villette is a place of leisure, which’s use is mainly “walking around”. Rather then multiplying the use of furniture, the park creates has shelters and long fields in which one can lounge(at last! to the contrary of any other typical French park, in which it is prohibited to touch the grass, and in which one has to confine to benches)was designed for constant, slow flow throughout the whole space. The paving way takes part in this aspect of the park: Just like the canal, it follows the areas preceding the entry into the “official park”, leading way into the space. The cobblestones are elements that are also present in all of the other canals, and they lead way into the space, following the river, so that one actually arrives in the park without really realizing it. In fact, if one thinks of those stones as being the emblematic elements of Parisian streets, there literally is a street running though the park, along the river, yet, it is done rather seamlessly. It feels completely natural to walk from the city, to the canals, and into the park.

The esthetic of the park is interesting in that it contains quite a contradictory esthetic. On the one hand there is the harshness of the colors(red, green, grey), of the structures(very geometric), of the planning of the different elements in space(a grid, arbitrarily “dropped” on the grounds), and the straight ness of the general shape of the water, which have all led to analogies made by critics to constructivism. But it is also inherently playful: Red, after all is not the dullest of colors, the steel which is suspended on the side of the shelter/Balcony has been bent to create shiny waves, and every one of the red structures is different. The elements around the water echo it, in that although they are irregular like the cobblestones and the curved steel, they are all lined-up, restructured and regular. The water is moving and tempered, but it is still contained within very regular and straight banks. All of these elements  are coherent with the spirit of this high place of science and arts, and thus demonstrate a certain excellence and rigor, but are also very playful, open to all (most events are cheap or free), innovative, and creative. The water with its symbol as being timeless but which also flows seems logical within the context and it is adorned with the architectural elements which frame and underline these different aspects.

March 5, 2012

Natural Cities – Hayley Garrigus

Natural Architecture

I stumbled upon this article (above) in my google search engine while trying to find a trailer for the movie Natural City, and got distracted by how interesting Luc Schuiten’s – utopian and architect – ideas for vegetation throughout cityscapes are. It reminds me of the High Line in New York City and how simply mending the dichotomy of nature and the urban landscape can bring beauty and salubrity back to a city.
In my opinion, when the modern city was just a fledgling, the beauty came from the progress and power of industry – human potential was the backbone of the city skyline that gave urban dwellers hope. The industrial domination over nature was what made cities so special, they facilitated a way to come together as humans to celebrate the progress of modernity. Slowly though time, greed, filth, disparity, inequalities, etc, have proven to stagnate the beauty of industry alone. So now there’s a call for the reintegration of nature into our urban dwelling spaces – a new aesthetic beauty.
And as I was on the same search engine I came across a book: The Natural City

that I’ve ordered to read more on the subject, so if anyone else is interested, above is the link.

One last thing…

Below is a link to another interesting article from the website Architecture in Development that also deals with the term “Natural City” in regards to city planning, sidewalks, and the future of modern cities.
Architecture in Development – Natural City

February 26, 2012

Inhabitants, shapers of their city- Anna

Much of the thinking and talking that has been going on in class, through the readings, discussions in class or on the blog and with Janette, have been centered around the idea of the public space as being a place of union the city or town’s inhabitants, and on the sense of belonging of the people to their town or city. While colonial cities play on the notion of power in order to create social division and hierarchy, we have seen that on the contrary in a city of democracy those things are to be avoided. While with the Panopticon and the watch towers in NYC have been proven source of authority and fear, in the Fall kill Creek project we want to create a way of making people secure but also comfortable.
One of the major points that we can take from all these discussions and ideas is the central idea, to my sense at least, of dialogue with the inhabitants of Poughkeepsie. I think that on the one hand we should be able to position ourselves as “experts” in the field of urbanism and rehabilitation of spaces, and in this case of creeks and other urban water sources, in order to be able to give realistic and responsible propositions, create an environment that will best suit our goals, while creating a sustainable solution that will thrive in the long-term(i.e. the question of flooding and pollution). But on the other hand we should, as Antonia and Marina have pointed out, create a true discussion with the inhabitants of Poughkeepsie to hear what they envision.
Here are a few of the projects that I have been thinking of ever since the blog-post “Public art and the shared experience of beauty” written by Jack and then our conversations on the politics of building over the past weeks. I think that if we can discover people’s thoughts and dreams we could create something that springs from the wishes of Poughkeepsie residents.
On the little island of Burano, each house is painted by its owner, with the color of his choice, traditionally with the paint remaining from the boat’s finish.

This idea has been furthered by the Mayor of Tirana, Albania (Europe), Edi Rama, in a collaboration with his best friend and artist Anri Sala, who, as part of a large project of re-habilitation of the city, invited the owners of the buildings to choose as a community the color of their building. This project brings people together and gets them involved directly in the construction of their city. It is incredible to see how much faith Rama and Sala have in the power of color to create hope for a better city!
On the same note, the very well acclaimed WoZoCo project in Amsterdam by the MVRDV architecture studio, found a creative solution to maximize the space they were given, by creating large balcony-spaces, and, here again create “customized” spaces, that create a sense of individuality to the different units and apartment.

Last but not least, and maybe the most appropriate of projects vis-à-vis the Fall Creek project, is the incredible project by Urban-Think Tank, who had to create economically intelligent project for the barrios of Caracas, Venezuela to respond to the community’s need for transportation and ways to access to the city and its resources, but also the problems of density, and the barrios’s lack of center.

I find it really interesting to see how the team played with the social divisions on the different scales and managed to use the topography of the environment and its complexities in a creative way, for the purpose of their goals. An incredible field-work, which, as we can see, starts with the problems and needs of the community to find creative solutions based on what the people expressed as needs.

February 21, 2012

Re-discovering a city through the creative use of its sidewalks – Anna

In response to Haley’s article about valuing walking as a mode of transportation(note the passivity of the verb to “transport” which in this case refers to “being transported”!): I read this interesting article a couple of years ago about the intervention of the association Creative Democracy in Strasbourg, (France) which started an interesting and creative way of utilizing the sidewalks of the city in order to re-discover their full potential. The project was basically to invite the residents of the city to come together and use polls, ramps, ladders and street signs of all type to use them in creative ways. Similar projects have already existed for a couple of years(at least in France and

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Italy) that I know of, such as bicycling and roller skating groups, usually organized by the city’s municipality to bring citizens together. Some are very public, and in that case the city’s administration provides safety measures, others are more exclusive, such as a roller-skating gay group which strolls around Paris at night with dance music on their back(possibly implying and promoting gay liberties and well-being). A fun and interesting way of rediscovering one’s own city and tightening the community while participating in healthy activities!

February 20, 2012

Colonial Urbanism- Jack hanly

Our discussion last class on the ways in which colonial powers used the built environment got me thinking about how our own cities may reflect an “imagined” state of being that is projected from higher powers. The colonial idea of “the Other” often did not align with its true manifestation, as we saw in paintings done at the time. The symbols of African or Oriental culture were eroticized and objectified through constant representation in Europe. Despite this fascination, no attempts were made to reconcile the culture with the types of urban planning which were implemented, or perhaps imposed. Algiers is a good example of the intersection between indigenous types of inhabitation (the controlled chaos of the Casbah) and European style modern planning (the French quarters). The people resisted this imposition through violent means, exposing the disconnect between the two cultures. We cannot assume, however, that this kind of planned subjugation only exists in the “developing” world. Just as urban planners were able to maintain cultural and hierarchical distinctions through geographical segmentation in places like Algiers and Mumbai, American urban planning can be seen through the lens of racial segregation. Things such as railroads or highways served to divide communities along economic or racial lines, further isolating individuals from one another and maintaining an ordered class system. Although we have certainly come a long ways from the transparent goals of colonialism, there still remain signs in the built environment that necessitate analysis. How do we decide the organization of populations, if at all? What ethical factors influence the creation of a properly planned community? Where do we draw the line between maintaining order and maintaining unnecessary divisions?

February 19, 2012

The utilization of bridges in the re-valorization of a small town – Anna

Yverdon-les-bains is a charming little town in Switzerland, which is crossed by many little rivers. Unfortunately, the city’s urban planning did not take in account this rich resource, and the water wholes were un-valorized by the community. The town launched a competition for graphic designers and architects in order to shift the situation. Laurence Madrelle’s team comprised of architect, designers, photographers and writers won the competition, not to surprisingly, as the French group specializes in the revalorization of public spaces through visual signs. For the project, the team traveled to the town, and was particularly impressed by a “network” of bridges. They decided to focus on highlighting the presence of these bridges in order to revitalize the w

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hole landscape. First of all they thought about recreating an environment that would tackle all of the senses: They decided to create a real experience of crossing the bridges. They thought about planting odorous plants, have different types of lighting on each of the bridges, and maybe even installing interesting sounds or music points. They also recreated maps of the town, which focused on the bridges. Their concept was that if the bridges are visible enough, they should not have to be signalized by panels, which are “cheap” and “old fashioned” and would interfere with a direct visual contact to the actual setting. Instead, they decided upon having the maps printed out in informative booklets, or to be viewable on the internet and an iphone application. An interesting way of using existent infrastructure by, simple means and common sense, shifting the public perspective of the urban environment!

February 12, 2012

Is it really possible to give a sense of the “objective” in a city? – Anna

One experiences a space differently whether he is tired or awake, happy or sad, and weather it is cold and rainy or warm and sunny. We can then ask ourselves: Is it really possible to talk about space in an objective way, or do multiple versions reside in each person’s mind? This question came to me as I was traveling alone in Italy for a few months. I was on a trip to work on several organic farms, and stop in villages and cities in between in order to witness the incredibly rich architecture and arts.

Now, the way I approach traveling and walking around any type of landscape is generally very contemplative. I pay close attention to smells, textures, sounds, the way light hits stone, the way buildings reflect in fountains, and also the particular way people interact between each other. I would rather spend a long time in deserted spaces that have remained “authentic” and rusty, then those that are polished and packaged for the pleasure of tourists. I would rather stare at a beautiful crack for a while, or at a pigeon taking a morning bath rather than take an array of pictures of monuments as to catalog where I had been.

However, before going back home I went to stay in Rome with some friends of mine for a few days. There, I consciously decided to do exactly what was expected of me in this city: be a tourist. I planned a very tight schedule, with strategic routes, sight-seeing in all of the main monuments, hills, streets, restaurants, gelaterias, gardens and houses.

Although I have since seen many pictures of Rome’s monuments, and have reviewed my pictures, I can remember specific moments much less clearly then other places where I had stayed the same amount of time but had adopted the opposite attitude I found it the city hard to relate to. I did not construct and imaginary “relationship” with the city. I found it very crowded, loud, and impersonal.

But apart from thinking of how to take into account all the factors that determine how we experience a city or the county side, how far does the common language go? One example might be interesting to take in consideration to find-out: A bunch of computer-scientists and engineers from the University of Washington got the idea of using the huge amount of data provided by the picture browsing website flickr in order to recreate a mapping of the cities monuments and even its streets. The result is a huge array of pictures that come in a whole for a common discourse. One can move in all directions around the pictures and “take a walk” in a virtual Rome. Even if we all have our takes on what a city “feels like”, maybe we can still create a common language about the physical aspect of a city, while still embracing all of its complexities in how it appears in different lights and perspectives according to the weather and the season.

In addition, the team created thanks to that first step a 3D synthesis of the mapping:

February 12, 2012

The High Line in NYC – Jean

The High Line Project in NYC began in 2002 as a move to restore the old High Line that was built in the 1930s. In the 1930s, in order to prevent accidents between trains and street- level traffic, an elevated railway track was built to go through the center of buildings. This allowed the trains to connect directly to factories and warehouses, so that manufactured goods could be transported in and out of buildings without disrupting street- level traffic. However, over time, the use of railways fell out of favor in light of more effective means of transporting manufactured goods, rendering the High Line useless. Discussion over whether or not to demolish the High Line followed, with a group of property owners lobbying for its destruction. However, the Friends of the High Line was founded in 1999 and in 2002, they attained a City Council resolution that advocated the High Line’s reuse. Today, the High Line acts as an elevated public park that runs through buildings, over traffic.

Moreover, the construction of the High Line resulted in an unlikely economic boom in NYC. In 2011, the park generated $2 billion in private investment, with the value of property in areas surrounding the High Line increasing dramatically. The construction of the park resulted in the flourishing of restaurants, art galleries, and boutiques in the area, and transformed a part of the city that was once considered undesirable, to one of the most popular hot- spots in NYC.

The construction of the High Line is a valuable point of interest in a popular argument in urban landscape design: How much should we restore and how much should we rebuild? New, high- tech architecture is popular in parts of Asia, and in contrast, countries in Europe tend towards restoration of architecture that they deem as important to their history and culture. Who stands in the forefront in the race of creating an ideal city (or if such an ideal even exists)? Nonetheless, whether you are a fan of the new, or a proponent of the past, I think everyone can agree that the High Line stands in a class of its own, 30- feet off the ground, giving New Yorkers and tourists alike a new perspective of the city, and for the rest of the world- It gave us a new perspective on urban landscaping. 

Sources cited:

December 12, 2011

Bard Spaces: Winners and Rejects- Myan Melendez

When we were told to go on a hunt for underused/well used bard spaces an abundance of examples of both sprang to mind…like BAM. Bard has this weird deal where it seems like whomever “planned” student spaces/seating areas at Bard just pressed a button and let the pieces fall where they would. Because walking around Bard is like walking around a strange outdoor version of Ikea…There are tables, there are chairs, there are benches, walls, walls that function as benches, chairs that function as beds, beds that are used as couches, etc. etc. During Finals week you find a lot of students re-appropriating random pieces of furniture/campus real estate for napping areas. I took this picture last week on Wednesday in the RKC:

But, back to the juxtaposition between underused and well used bard spaces. It’s actually super interesting (and by interesting I mean sorta confusing) to consider what makes one space appealing to users and another space unappealing. On the hill slope between Manor and New Robbins there sits a little rickety memorial wooden gazebo right next to a really beautiful black marble bench with an integrated chess board also a memorial to a late bard student. Although the gazebo is pretty devoid of human presence at odd hours of the day usually by the early evening it’s crammed with pairs or groups of kids taking in the scene and/or smoking. Yet, I have never once seen anyone utilize the pristine marble bench in any manner. Perhaps its the fact that the marble bench lacks the protective element that the covered gazebo has. Also in the spring when the days begin to get long and hot so does the black marble which probably does not make for a comfortable sit down. I also think the gazebo promotes conversation by having two forward facing benches inside of it partially enclosed walls. So I guess those differences in comfort, convenience and accommodation alone can account for the disuse of the marble chess bench and the use of the little gazebo.

Waiiiit…there is one piece of ungainly furniture that I’ve seen utilized a lot despite it’s lack of convenience. The white wooden enclosed circle bench on the lawn of the Hessel Museum forces it’s users to clamber over it’s sides to gain entry into it’s circular seating area yet, I often see people lounging within it in the company of friends. But,maybe it’s the bench’s unique/artistic element that makes people willing to accept the challenge of utilizing it.

December 12, 2011

Shrinking Cities: Eastern Germany: “The Future is Less.” -Myan Melendez

On November 9th, 1989 the Berlin Wall, which along with the Inner German Border had effectively divided Eastern and Western Germany for 28 years, was torn down. With the opening of the wall came the mass migration of over 1 million Germans from Eastern German cities to the West. Many Eastern towns and cities watched their neighborhoods and commercial centers decline as their populations plummeted.In 2003 the East German state of Saxony-Anhalt proposed a sort of contest branded as the International Building Exhibition (IBA) in which the state offered to sponsor architects and designers who could come up with innovative plans to deal with shrinking cities in a productive and sustainable manner. Not only will these proposals be displayed within the exhibition but, they will also be directly implemented in the communities most effected by urban shrinkage. Two of the most surprising major urban revitalization projects being enacted are: “city islands” and giant contemporary art pieces replacing derelict buildings. The concept of “city islands” is explained as follows: “Buildings will be cut out and in the empty spaces we will insert countryside.” This concept was initially conceived by a local resident when IBA polled the community for suggestions and input on prospective projects. The resident of the consolidated city of Dessau-Rosslau recommended extending the beauty of one of Dessau’s UNESCO world heritage sites -The Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Werlitz-to the whole of the city. In another shrinking city within Saxony-Anhalt contemporary artists are helping to ameliorate the effects of urban shrinkage by erecting giant, house size art pieces within the city center that is skirted by a major roadway. The art pieces create the affect of “a kind of drive-through art gallery — an outdoor exhibition rather than urban wasteland.” Contrary to most popular notions of urban re-development which stress the importance of constructing new buildings and infrastructure to encourage new investment, IBA’s urban renewal policy is one of downsizing and reuse.,1518,688152-2,00.html

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December 5, 2011

Aleppo and monumentality! Jose

The institutionalization process applied over the monuments of the city caused intentional restorations of the Citadel and the city itself. Institutionalization is defined to be the application of dominant ideas into a physical structure.  In the case, of the Citadel the Muslins adopted this structure and redefined its symbolism. The symbolism that the Citadel highlighted was power since it was the main fortified structure located at the center of the city.  The citadel was perceived as a monument because of its relationship with the city. Michael Herzfeld on his article “Spatial Cleansing” agrees with the personification of the Citadel when he says, “the physicality of the built environment has a very direct relationship to the ideologies that particularly endorse it. “ In other words, the physical aspects of the structures have an interconnection with the symbolism in which it is deposit in it.  According to Yasser Tabbaa the Citadel had a connection between its aesthetic and its symbolism. He argues, “the Citadel of Aleppo, like other urban citadels was not just a military garrison but also the royal palace and the center of government and administration.” In other words, the Citadel was not only perceived as the main power and patriotism symbol but also as an administrative location. In fact, the symbolism of power was obtained due to the fortification and the “royal architecture” that the city was adopting through the institutionalization process.

December 5, 2011

Reading Viaduct – Grace Diliberto

Talking about New York City’s High Line in class the other day reminded me of a similar space in Philadelphia: the Reading Viaduct. The Reading Viaduct is an abandoned elevated train track that was built in the 1890s and runs 10 blocks through the city. The viaduct is, more or less, a bridge that connects a number of diverse neighborhoods, many of which are seeing rapid development.

The Reading Viaduct Project is a group that is seeking to preserve the viaduct as a public and open green space by transforming it into a public park. Creating this elevated park, in conjunction with the continued redevelopment of the surrounding neighborhoods, could serve to further rejuvenate the heart of Philadelphia. This installment could also potentially lead to further economic development and tax revenue for the city. As opposed to demolishing the viaduct, a feat that could cost the city up to $51.2 million, restoring the space as a public park would cost an estimated $5.1, 10 times less. Overall, this project would hold the benefits of bringing together communities that are both economically and culturally diverse, generate economic development, and potentially spurring further redevelopment of this portion of North Philadelphia.

Reading Viaduct Project website:



December 4, 2011

Vertical Farming- Violeta Borilova

Taking urban farming to the next level

The website ecomagination offers articles, statistics, and open-to-public discussions about urban environmental solutions. There was an article on vertical farming written by Betsy Mikel who presented the values of having these types of farms in cities. She argues that it will beneficiary for the people because the farm will aport food grown locally, (no need to transport food across the country) it will be efficient in terms of maintaining heat in the building, and will also be educative to the people who live in cities and who wonder where their food is coming from.

I think the idea of building vertical farms is quite interesting. In her post she mentioned that by 2050, 70% of the population will be living in urban areas (according to United Nations Population Division). If more people move to the city, food that is being produced outside of the city, will have to be transported. This does not look efficient, which is why the idea of vertical farms in the city looks appealing. Also, linked to the same idea, greenroofs, and farms on building tops, are also options to not only produce locally but also a way of reducing bills as far as heating and air-conditioning  go.

These ideas are not being developed so far because of debates on ‘who will be paying’. The costs for vertical farming range from $3 to $5 million. I don’t think money should limit  ideas such as this one which in the future will be extremely beneficiary for the people.

Cities such as Incheon, South Korea; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; and Dongtan, China seem the most likely candidates to invest in vertical farming, as noted by Discovery magazine. Some of the designs being planned are:

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Dickson Despommier came up with the idea of vertical farming and explains his idea in a TED talk attached below:

December 4, 2011

Jin Jun – CITY, Inc. Presentation

“As a private person, I have a passion for landscapes, and I have never seen one improved by a billboard”

— David Ogilvy, in Confessions of an Advertising Man, 1963

— Visuals:

(1) Model of Songdo IBD

(2) Rendering of Songdo IBD

(3) Screen Capture of Songdo IBD Development Website

(4) Page excerpt from the Songdo IBD Master Plan created by Gale International

(5) A Traditional Korean Dancer at Songdo IBD Opening Event

— Key Points:

<< CITY, Inc.: “Brand” New City, Between Heritage and Modernism >>

1) Concept of City Branding

Post-Industrial Industrialism points to the production of cities.  Just as it was/is in manufactured goods, brand-power becomes an important aspect of the city’s image.  From architectural structures built to attract and impress to the commodification of the city’s identity, the “future” cities are being crafted to be marketed, branded, and consumed.

2) Crafting the City: Songdo IBD

“Among the growing number of these “in-a-box” cities, one in particular has gained the media glory, deemed as the canonic model of the future city: Songdo International Business District in South Korea” (from my paper). Songdo International Business District is a city built on Korean land, by an American corporation, for the international audience.

[A] City as a factory, city as a product: Made-from-scratch city.

[B] Marketing Approaches

  • Main Concept: Aerotropolis
  • Environmental: “Sustainable City”
  • Economic: “Global Business Hub”
  • Equity: “A Master Plan Inspired by the World”

3) Discourse: What is lost and left behind?

[A] Between Heritage and Modernism

  • Does this city of the future neglect cultural heritage?
  • The question of value: what “sells” v. what is meaningful

[B] Staged Authenticity

  • City to be seen v. city to be experienced

[C] False Name of Sustainability

  • Sustainably-made city v. city of sustainable practice

“Sustainability as we speak of today is often a selfish mask that works to save our own asses from the “Day After Tomorrow” and neglects the immediacy of our cities’ internal “Crash.”” — My paper

  • Social sustainability

“The utopian ideals seen in Songdo International Business District, and other in-a-box cities alike, may point to the start of the dystopian future in the familiar cities around us.  The true “Day After Tomorrow” we should fear is not that of snow-covered metropolis, or urban volcanic eruptions, but a lost sense of cultural identity and heritage in the modern city concerned only with the brand-value attached to the repeating barcodes of glass skyscrapers.” — My paper

4) Further thought on ‘Branding’ as it relates to current issues

In thinking about the recent activities of Occupy Wall Street and/or the Atenistas Group (discussed during one of the EUS Colloquim lectures) within the spatial setting of a city, consider the following quotes:

“Branding is on the agenda of policy centers, transnational agencies, and think tanks, alternatively investigated as a strategy for international diplomacy, a matter of public policy and a source of institutional funding.”

— M. Aroncyzk and D. Powers (3)

“the role of advertising changed from delivering product news bulletins to building an image around a particular brand-name version of a product.”

— Naomi Klein, in No Logo, 2000 (32)

“in a striking reversal of No Logo’s Lessons, many anticorporate activists and their causes themselves became “brands,” taking the rationalized logic of brand management to the heart of their organization.”

— Melissa Aroncyzk and Devon Powers, in Blowing Up the Brand (2)

December 1, 2011

Architecture and Greenery

Google search for 'modern design buildings' - check out the glass and shapes.

We were talking about what is ‘synthetic’ and what is ‘natural’, and I couldn’t help but thinking that those terms aren’t really applicable to cities or rural areas. ‘Synethetic’ to me, is simply something made in a lab, like synthetic diamonds – but even that is a restrictive term. Natural is a much more encompassing term, and much more appropriate for cities. The evolution of design is a ongoing process – and the use of greenery and solar power, and other naturally occurring processes is becoming more and more influential as time progresses. At the forefront of modern design are the most organic shaped buildings, the most environmentally friendly, and the buildings that use concrete more economically – mostly glass structures that allow for sunlight to come in. On a more individual scale, the ‘green roof’ movement is the quickest growing trend in many metropolitan areas.

The American Society of Landscape Architect's roof

A green roof can just consist of a small vegetable garden, or a full-on walk-in garden, with greenhouse abilities and irrigation systems. Oddly enough, the are becoming more and more apparent – around 10% of ALL rooftops in Germany are green roofs. Why?

Gren roofs help with heating costs, saving heat in winter and preventing heat from entering in the summer. They can save money on groceries if they have vegetables, and reduce air and water pollution by absorbing chemicals from the environment – much like the phyoremediation Kaja Kuhl spoke to us about. Lastly, they just look reallynice.  Minus the maintenance, which with direct and full sunlight  can’t be too much, for all the water they would need, the gardens will store more rainwater, since they have no shade or blockage between the sky and plants.

The Fukuoka ACROS building in Japan

In other countries, many governments grant funds for green roofs, some even require it. This is just making it’s way to the USA in the last couple years, but small movements have been turning into bigger ones quickly in the states – especially with the rise of green technology in America. In short, what do you think about this trend? Does it help with the stigma of cities being dirty and concrete, very separate from nature? Or does this just end up being city people living out their mini-dreams of having a countryside home? Is this here to stay? And can it work in cold climates?


And for those of you who have similar tumblr addictions, check out

November 29, 2011

City Project- Lia Soorenian

My project will be analyzing the physical and cultural affect of lawns. I will be looking at the environmental harm that is done by maintaining each individual lawn. Some examples include the use of pesticides leading to eutrophication in lakes and  a waste of space. The culture affects include understanding the American Dream through a consumerist perspective and changing our view of what is effective. Lawns then become a symbol for a consumer nation that refuses to see the consequences, such as the waste and environmental damages, to their actions. Plus, there is the notion of the sublime and what we consider the “natural world” and how that affects our thinking of vegetation in our living environment.

Also, I will be comparing the lawns to porches and the the difference between the city and the country. This includes the development of suburbs and the beginning of red lining. I will be covering suburbs in New York City and Los Angeles.

After the background of lawns from an environmental and urban approach, I will be showing the results of my research about alternatives to lawns. For example, I will be discussing the benefits of community gardens, wheat growth, and other uses for the space that is commonly used as lawns. Overall, I am arguing the several types of harm that lawns cause and that we can come up with  solutions to better our current way of thinking.

November 28, 2011

Crafting the City: Le Corbusier’s Vision in Songdo IBD

My research is in city branding and marketing, and the effects of globalization breeding light into the idea of city as a product.  I decided and finally chose a new city that I want to use as my case study.  I chose to deviate from my initial plan, (1) because handful of like-research have already been done on the previous cities I’ve mentioned (Athens, Dubai, etc.), and (2) because I wanted to pick a city that better fit the idea of a “product city.”  So the new “city” I chose is Songdo International Business District in South Korea, which oddly enough is not a city yet.  It already has everything a city can ask for, except for the physical manifestation of it.  It’s been designed and fabricated from scratch, and the entire city is currently “under construction.”  (More information about Songdo IBD can be found here, or my paper in the near future 🙂 ).  Of course, when I first read about this development, I thought of Le Corbusier.


“Cities aren’t created by any one specialist or expert.”
— Excerpt from the description of the film, Urbanized by Gary Hustwit

I’ve noted on the blog earlier this semester on the quote above: what would Corbusier think of such statement?  As Jon commented, and as anyone who is familiar with Corbusier’s work would agree, he would probably hostilely disagree.  However, Songdo IBD on the other hand bears very much of the vision held by Corbusier, if not taking it another step.  Everything about Songdo is a fabrication.  From the land it (will) stand on, the infrastructure, the architecture, and even the people: it is designed on a man-made landscape with buildings and roads designed from a clean-slate for the international citizen.  For this project that Corbusier would have killed to do, a New York based architecture firm, Kohn Pedersen Fox, took on the job of coming up with the master plan for Songdo IBD.  In the process, Songdo is being shamelessly branded, marketed, and advertised, taking what have been a figurative idea of a “city as a product,” and making it literal.  We’ve moved from branding pre-existing cities for the tourist market, to crafting a city for the international-citizen market.  Furthermore, if college campuses work as intellectual capitals of the global nation, brining in different perspectives from all around the world for a more comprehensive discussion, Songdo proposes to be the same, but as an economic capital of the global market.

My Take on Songdo IBD

During my research, I’ve found that most discussions surrounding Songdo City is that of a positive one, praising its innovative and sustainable practice.  However, I’m taking a rather negative stance toward such development, along with Nicolas Lemann of the New Yorker, in asking: Are we thinking too much about the future that we’re leaving behind the present, and the past?


— What’s more important?

I plan on discussing the lost heritage of the nation and a skewed sense of sustainability bred by Songdo development.  For one, a modern city has taken its toll and breached far beyond the meaning of a city, to the point where a city is thought of as a place not made by the people but simply composed of.  The de-humanization of cities and the cultural heritage that follows is something to be thought of in light of these prefabricated cities.  On the other, the sustainability as we speak of today is a selfish mask that works to save our own asses from the Day After Tomorrow and neglects the immediacy of our internal Crash.  Sustainable practice today is a privilege, and it is not a choice for some, mainly lower-class, citizens.  I want to explore how a “sustainably-made city” may be different from a “city of sustainable practice” and the affects of each to the citizens of a city.