Assessing The Buildings Defined Spaces Cultural Studies Essay

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If is difficult to define what a modern city is, as it is a complex of many parameters. Therefore it is simpler to define what a city is not. A city is not just a permanent settlement or a group of buildings with lost space in between. Striking the right note Morris (1969) states 'clearly the city is not a concrete jungle, it is a human zoo'. The infinite variety of human activities is what drives Morris to define the city as a human zoo. City is the space where many human activities take place, consequently urban design, the design of shaping, forming and enabling the function of cities is apart from a spatial configuration a generator of context for the habitants. The city is a patchwork of land uses and urban design is the thread that weaves these uses together.

The urban space consists of both the indoor and outdoor spaces. In the following essay I am going to examine the urban outdoor public space, as an indispensable element of a city's framework. This space is a more that a few square meters of urban land, it is a three dimensional volume with applicable qualities and characteristics.

Public spaces are key elements of sustainable cities as they are the urban stages where the interaction of people from different backgrounds and distinct aspirations happens (Varna, 2009). Habitants of formed as well as evolving citied should be able to engage in a communal existence around a public space, a street, a square, a figural place. In many cases nowadays and due to various reasons urban public space is empty of use, sense and context therefore the habitants tent to create social life in private , enclosed territories. The 'unshaped antispace '(Trancik, 2007) that is left is referred to as lost space. It is going to be examined how this lost space can be avoided and how these voids of the urban tissue can form parts of an urban sequence .+historic cities?

To begin with we should examine how public space ended up in fragmented bits of urban activity without sequence. The five factors that lead to misused urban public spaces as Trancik (2007) suggests are 'The highway, the Modern movement in architecture, urban renewal and zoning, competition for image on the part of private enterprise, and changing patterns of land use in the inner city.' I am going to examine the factors of the Modern movement and the one of privatization of public space as they are the factors that deal most with the buildings that surround and define the outdoor public space.

The Modern movement that dominated most of the 20th century and has shaped many buildings as well as many cities is strongly criticized that at various points intentionally or not enabled the formation of lost spaces in cities. Even though it did enhance several public interest and activities in the 1943 charter of Athens, it draw little attention to the historically created public urban spaces. As Madanipour (2003) suggests :

'What they sought was a redefinition of the relationship between public and private space, which would reshape the urban space, creating large quantities of open space for hygienic as well as aesthetic reasons. What resulted was vast expanses of space which could have little or no connection with the other spaces of the city and could be left underused only to be watched from the top of high rise buildings or from car windows.'

So the human dimension in outdoor urban spaces was neglected in order to promote vast open air spaces.

Moreover the Modern design as far as buildings are concerned promoted the design of high rise, free standing buildings that withdraw themselves from the street level and the public realm and intensified the out of scale proportion of a building with its linked outdoor space. In order to enhance function Modernism overtook the strong relationship between public outdoor space and the buildings surrounding it.

Another factor that has alienated public space from its scale and qualities is the privatization of urban space. Trancik (2007) comments that ' we have transformed the city of collective spaces into a city of private icons'.

The immense projection of certain buildings-sculptures that are nonetheless private has caused the loss of coherence of the urban tissue and the decadence of the public realm. The design of these buildings and therefore of the outdoor spaces they create has to do with showing off a status symbol and not any kind of effort to integrate or interact with the outdoor surrounding areas. The result is a loose gathering of private building with flowing outdoor areas without scale, qualities or coherence with one another.

At this point we should take a look to our role, as cityscape designers that influence the urban environment and address the principles of design for public space. About the role of architecture Krier (2003) argues that 'In any case its role is still considered as the creation of coziness indoors and of status symbol outdoors. Anything else is classed as icing on the cake, which one can perfectly do without. I maintain that a stage in history when architecture is not granted its full significance shows a society in cultural crisis '.

If we actually look at the most successful examples of urban experiences or areas with enchanting public vibration we will definitely come across traditional, pre industrialized cities. But what exactly are these qualities that these cities have and why did they extinct? Up to what level should we copy them?

Traditional environments emphasize the urban area between buildings and succeed in creating an organic entity of small and large areas that have a human scale.

These space were emphasized actually because during the Middle Ages and Renaissance public spaces had a practical purpose. They were of prime necessity as they were the doxeio that hosted all public life, which nowadays takes place in enclosed halls.

Public squares or plazas were then of prime necessity , for they were theaters for the principal scenes of public life, which today take place in enclosed halls. (Sitte, 2007). During the middle ages and Renaissance public squares were often used for practical purposes, and that they formed an entirety with the buildings which enclosed them. (Sitte, 2007).

The old plazas produce a collective harmonious effect because they are uniformly enclosed. (Sitte, 2007).

In brief, the place of a forum in cities corresponds to that of the principal room of a house. It is to the city, so to speak, the principal hall, as well arranged as it is richly furnished. (Sitte, 2007)

For just as there are furnished and unfurnished rooms, we could speak of complete and incomplete squares. The essential thing of both room and square is the quality of enclosed space.

If the aesthetic quality of adjacent houses is neglected, if the facing frontages are out of harmony, if different sections of the street are inadequately demarcated or if the scale is unbalanced. These factors fulfill a precise cultural role in the functional coherence of the street and the square. The need to meet the town's function of 'poetry of space' should be as self evident as the need to meet any other technical requirements. (Krier, 2003)

The enclosure of urban space to make outdoor rooms provides a human-scale environment and a sense of protection and well being. The range extends from such grand spaces as St. Peter's Piazza in Rome to squares and courtyards. (Sitte, 2007).43

The most pedestrian friendly places offer a sequence of experiences to the pedestrian or visitor- as in San Gimignano Italy.49

+Certainly nowadays the urban model of historical cities is a utopian dream, but nonetheless we should refer to it to show what quality life can be like. 'The object is not to republish ancient and trite ideas, nor to reopen sterile complaints against the already proverbial banality of modern streets. We shall examine the plan of a number of cities , but neither as historians nor as critic. We wish to seek as technician and artist, the elements of composition which formerly produced such harmonious effects.' (Sitte, 2007)

Spaces must be intentional, not the left over bits that are too difficult to deal with. They must be contained and well defined. Public and private areas, and front and backs of buildings, must be easily recognizable. This is a familiar pattern, which people like and with which they feel comfortable. By comparison, the formless development of the 1960's has left a legacy of anonymous spaces which people find uncomfortable, ambiguous and disorientating. (Sitte, 2007).40

+ Venice, Italian cities, etc

+ contemporary examples,

Manhattan ( But it isn't height that matters in consideration of human scale. In parts of Manhattan, for example, a pleasant pedestrian environment has been achieved by the way in which the street level is handled- it being largely irrelevant whether the mail building rises to ten, twenty or a hundred storeys. Equally o four or five storey building can be totally alienating to the pedestrian environment if it fits unhappily with its neighbours or provide a dull , ugly or unfriendly street façade level.



+ utopia cities, arhigram, plug in cities(not about density), tuned,etc…

Therefore not

Trancik, R. (2007) What is lost space? in Carmona, M. and Tiesdel, S. (ed.) The urban design

reader, Oxford : Architectural press, p.63

Morris, J. (1969) The human zoo, London: Jonathan Cape,

Varna, G.(2009) Designing the sustainable city: the role of public space, Department of Urban

Studies, University of Glasgow p.187

Madanipour, A. (2003) Why are the design and development of public spaces significant for

cities? in Cuthbert, A., Designing Cities Critical Readings in Urban Design, Oxford: Blackwell

publishing, p.142

Krier, R. (2003) Typological and Morphological Elements of the concept of Urban Space in

Cuthbert, A., Designing Cities Critical Readings in Urban Design, Oxford: Blackwell

publishing, p.329

Sitte, C. (2007) Author's Introduction from The art of building cities in Le Gates, R. and Stout, F.(ed.) The city reader, London : Routledge , p.415

Sitte, C. (2007) The enclosed character of the public square from The art of building cities in Le Gates, R. and Stout, F.(ed.) The city reader, London : Routledge , p.415

Tibbalds, F. (1992) Making people friendly towns, Essex : Longman

Georgiana Varna

kind of deformed wheel: