Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Quality without a Name – Going Deeper II

Interesting places have an organic feel, and not in the earthen way. Like the Cinque Terre example, provided a few posts back, these places grow incrementally, in a unpredictable manner and are full of feeling. New modern buildings and places clearly lack this concept - Jan Gehl described this notion best blaming “bird-shit-architects” for lack of cohesiveness and collaboration within the existing urban fabric. He feels buildings are designed and then fall from the sky with no link to the pedestrian, street-level environment. However, architects alone are not to blame, but also designers, city planners and transportation engineers.

Continuing with literature from Christopher Alexander, in A New Theory of Urban Design he declares, “what happens in the city, happens to us” and “we must therefore learn to understand the laws which produce wholeness in the city.” You may ask, “what laws are needed?” Alexander proposes one rule, that “every increment of construction must be made in such a way as to heal the city.” He then summarizes The Nature of Order, still unpublished at the time of printing, which demands:

1. Wholeness or coherence
2. Structure specific to its circumstances
3. Wholeness produce by the same well-defined process
4. Incremental creation of centers.

The first part of A New Theory of Urban Design proposes the following intermediate rules to establish The Nature of Order. The intermediate rules are versions of the one rule and include piecemeal growth, the development of larger wholes, visions, the basic rule of positive urban space, layout of large buildings, construction and the formation of centers.

Piecemeal growth occurs organically with a mixture of uses, scales, and quantities. The growth of larger wholes “defines the content and character.”

Every project must first be experienced, and then expressed, as a vision which can be seen in the inner eye (literally). It must have this quality so strongly that it can also be communicated to others, and felt by others, as a vision.

The vision continues with incremental growth, “pedestrian space first, buildings second, and roads third” with “parking space (as) the last element in the hierarchy.” Finally, all forms are designed to form centers, buildings must be a center within themselves.