Urban Connectivity and Vitality of Space

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Urban Connectivity and Vitality of Space:

Network of paths around the hillock of Conceição in Panaji

  1. Abstract

This study focuses on the urban connectivity and vitality of space with respect to the hillock of Conceição(Panaji).Why is connectivity so important?The network of paths is simply the system of arterials, collectors, nodes, stairways (escadinhas), steep climbing road (Calçada), streets, roads in an area.Paths are the channels along which the observer customarily, occasionally, or potentially moves. For most of us these are the predominant elements in our image and along these paths the other urban elements are arranged and related.(Lynch,1960) Connectivityrefers to the directness of travel routes between any two locations, and the number of alternative routes available for traveling between any two locations.

Network connectivity largely determines whether an area develops as an urban fabric of neighbourhoods, or a suburban sprawl. That in turn affects the city environment, sustainability, long-term adaptability, and other quality-of-life issues.

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In the context of the hillock of Conceição(Panaji) the urban pedestrian connectivity is formed by the network of stepped paths for example Escadinhas Ivens,Escadinhas do Oiteiro,Escadinhas do Templo,Escadinhas do Medico,Escadinhas do Liceu.

The hillock was the closest land downstream from the old city affected by an epidemic and so in the latter part of the 17th century the shift in capital was made to Panjim.This sparsely inhabited fisherman and trader village ward now grew into a town with neighbourhoods of distinctive character however in recent years it has met functional change with laws of conservation and strain of tourism. The shift in life style has also rendered ill for the vitality around the hillock.In the efforts to conserve the built environment much is lost as the vitality of these neighbourhood lies in conserving the interface of the built with the public.

Built form and interface may evolve, change or be done with but network of paths can be in place for centuries. Even as empires rise and fall, movement patterns have been re-used. Examples include the medieval European bastides that were built on the sites of Roman settlements, using grid plans established a thousand years before. Athens is a hillock too, where connectivity layout is an exemplary design. Whatever impact the network pattern has on urban function, for better or for worse, it tends to outlast most urban design elements.

The intent of the research is to understand character of vitality along the stepped paths, with its built interface, around the hillock of Conceição (Panaji).The vitality of a space can be defined as the ability to provide space for a variety of activities and users (with different fields of economic, social and cultural) diversity of experiences and social interactions such as security, equality and provide convenience for all users considered. (Jacobs, 1961.Alexander, 1965).Jacob's essence of city life is a lively diversity that lies at any time and be available for a wide range of choices available to them to put it. Lynch (1960) believes the neighbourhood is desirable when it is vibrant, meaningful, relevant, accessible and be well supervised.

This study will contribute to the fields of architecture and humanities to understand the network that knit these neighbourhoods creating vivid settings en route.

  1. Keywords

Urban Connectivity, Vitality of Space, Path, Built Interface

  1. World view

“Under the seeming disorder of the old city, wherever the old city is working successfully, is a marvellous order for maintaining the safety of the streets and the freedom of the city. It is a complex order. Its essence is intricacy of sidewalk use, bringing with it a constant succession of eyes. This order is all composed of movement and change, and although it is life, not art, we may fancifully call it the art form of the city and liken it to the dance — not to a simple-minded precision dance with everyone kicking up at the same time, twirling in unison and bowing off en masse, but to an intricate ballet in which the individual dancers and ensembles all have distinctive parts which miraculously reinforce each other and compose an orderly whole. The ballet of the good city sidewalk never repeats itself from place to place, and in any one place is always replete with improvisations.”(Jacobs, 1961)

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This excerpt is an extended metaphor comparing pedestrian use as a dance. Jacobs (1961) advocates pedestrians as an element that gives life to the city. Something so vital was being overlooked with urban development. To compare, think of how suburbs (for example Porvorim) don’t facilitate walkability and therefore often appear bland and lifeless with its absence of vital network of paths. Frequent streets and short blocks are valuable because of the fabric of intricate cross-use that they permit among the users of a city.

Probably for the first time the path concept used by the Roman architect Vitruvius. In the course of different times and various cultures, the functional and physical shape has changed a lot. The network of paths has significant organization in the processing of perception (Lynch, 1960). Higher visibility of street space between the user, division and reinforcing the importance of city streets, the city is thinking of the image into the path.

  1. Contextual understanding

The paths are a defining character and essence of places and the users in them. Observing and experiencing different places excites curiosity and engages interest among people. Permeable boundaries activate space by ensuring they are safe, inviting environments. For example, soppo(porch seating)or steps are a connection between private and public space that provide physical and passive activation. Physical, through people entering and leaving and passive, through the possibility that someone could arrive or leave or even stay.

In the residential neighbourhoods around the hillock openings, balconies, backdoors and the streets and stairs winding throughout the neighbourhood are a visual engagement between public and private. They provide passive activation of the public space through the possibility that someone could be looking out. Openings up to two levels above the street and stairs can also provide physical activation because they allow communication between the private and public space.

The expression of such interface in architecture provides an important role in the activation of public space. They offer a pedestrian scaled journey of transition and threshold between public and private space. A pedestrian approaching a building can best appreciate its form from a distance. Often the footpath is covered by a veranda, so the building form has minimal impact on the pedestrian experience of transitions.

These elements are definable by the spaces they attempt to create for the individual person to occupy and evolve. Only then can place become evident and vital, the neighbourhood will begin to identify with a place. The evolution of place begins within the identification of a lost element, and grows based upon the individuals that occupy particular zones. The uses for the spaces will engage the idea of "place" for a future development of the neighbourhood and the urban tissue at large.

  1. Rationale for the study

Personal/private transport and communication technology have contributed significantly to the erosion of quality urban living. Together they have weakened the relationships between people within neighbourhoods through their ability to connect people over short or long distances with limited public interaction. The changes in the physical environment and the subsequent shift in the users’ perception continue to be translated into interventions that proved to have altered the urban fabric and disrupted its sense of place. Cities with such topography are blighted by endemic disconnection, bringing problems such as low maintenance, social isolation and a loss of vibrancy. The streets and stairs shorten the path by its vivid settings making the path vital in formulating space.

There may be endless guides on social and humane architecture but only a few that apply to Indian context because of culture, climate and economic changes varying from time to place. This research would thus contribute to the subject of humanities and architecture, for in the end we are social animals and shelter is our primary need.

  1. Aim and framework

To understand character of vitality along the stepped paths, with its built interface, around the hillock of Conceição

The origin and growth of the settlement will be mapped using the archives and relying on the written works of published historians.

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Through architectural understanding investigate the characteristics that define the path, developing analytical matrix to organise types of paths in the networks. Formulate resource material such as roof plans, ground floor-scapes, sketches and axonometric view that suggests the network of paths for selected cases within the context.

Finally conclude by diagrammatically analysing its ability in generating space that allows one to dwell, or journey through safely; interacting with community, creating a greater sense of journey and place within the neighbourhood.

  1. Objectives
  • To map out the origin and growth of the settlement around the hillock of Conceição
  • To identify types of path and study its character
  • To understand vertical connections (stepped paths) and the built form it supports along the path
  • To study , compare and analyse the cases based on its ability to generate vitality of space
  1. Research questions
  • What is the engagement of path and built interface?
  • What is vitality of space in the context? Define the character of vital spaces in cases?
  1. Findings and discusions

Topography determines extent of path

Kostof (1919) mentions influencing irregularities in urban form of organic cities are topography and land division. Notable illustrations on topography as a determinant of urban form on a linear ridge, hilltop town and sloped terrain. It dictates movement.

Multiple irregular paths in network

In mathematical sense two points can be connected by a straight line in only one way, but they can be connected by curved lines in an infinite number of ways. As we want the maximum possible number of connections between urban nodes, we cannot insist on straight connections on a Cartesian (Hippodamian) grid. As argued by Camillo Sitte, and verified by this research, the curved path of medieval towns give the greatest pleasure.

In Feynman's (1965) path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, the interaction between two objects can be written as the sum of interactions over all possible paths. To compute the total interaction strength, one considers all possible paths linking two points, with appropriate weight according to their probability of occurrence. One then integrates along all of those paths to obtain the total interaction strength. As observed and analysed by gradient diagrams for change in direction, penetrability and multiplicity favours the vitality along the paths in the network.

Paths connect nodes of human activity

Urban nodes are not entirely defined by structures such as a prominent building or a monument. They can be more fleeting or modest, such as a fisherwomen or a shaded bench. Nodes have to attract people for some reason, so a building or monument will mark a node only if there is a well-defined activity there as well. Prominent buildings and monuments that also provide a node for human activities act as a focus for paths, and succeed. We draw a distinction between visual connections, and paths that connect the physical movement of persons. As emphasized by Kevin Lynch, visual connections are necessary for orientation, and for creating a coherent picture of an urban setting.

Architectural elements connect to each other at a distance visually through symmetries, similarity, and intermediate forms. There is a basic difference between architectural and human connections.Functional connections are not possible to measure. This research succeeds in identifying the stimulating elements of the path, built form and street furniture that render a character of vitality.

Two kinds of movement >along contour

>across contour

It is noticed and surveyed that there is no vehicular access to each plot However pedestrian path is penetrable

Presence of retaining wall also marks general level

Along the path there is minimal use of boundary wall for plots also peculiar that private spaces are guarded by pets(dogs),with their natural instinct to mark territory, so one cannot wonder off

Wells (water body) a common feature along most paths

The set back is negligible most built form is hugging the path

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