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The Visual Dimension Of Urban Design

Summary from Mathew Carmona's book "Public Spaces,Urban Spaces"




Urban Design LECTURE 2 The Visual Dimension Abhishek K. Venkitaraman Assistant Professor THE VISUAL DIMENSION Architecture and urban design are often described as the only truly inescapable, and therefore public, art forms. BARC0703 | URBAN DESIGN | 1-08-16 LITERATURE PATTERNS AND AESTHETIC ORDER We always experience the 'whole' rather than any single part in isolation. To make them more ordered, visually coherent and harmonious, however, we select and choose some features i.e. mentally group certain elements. Von Meiss (1 990, p. 32) PATTERNS AND AESTHETIC ORDER Smith (1 980, p. 74) argues that our intuitive capacity for aesthetic appreciation has four distinct components: •Sense of rhyme and pattern •Appreciation of rhythm •Recognition of balance •Sensitivity to harmonic relationships PATTERNS AND AESTHETIC ORDER Smith (1 980, p. 74) argues that our intuitive capacity for aesthetic appreciation has four distinct components: •Sense of rhyme and pattern •Appreciation of rhythm •Recognition of balance •Sensitivity to harmonic relationships PATTERNS AND AESTHETIC ORDER Smith (1 980, p. 74) argues that our intuitive capacity for aesthetic appreciation has four distinct components: •Sense of rhyme and pattern •Appreciation of rhythm •Recognition of balance •Sensitivity to harmonic relationships IMAGE OF A CITY • American urban planner and author • He studied in Yale University • He received a Bachelor's degree in city planning from MIT in 1947. • Became a full professor in 1963 • The Image of the City (1960) and What Time is This Place? (1972) Lynch's core concept was the idea of the "legibility" of the built environment. That is, how easy can the parts of the cityscape be organized into a recognizable pattern. He conducted case studies in three U.S. cities: Boston, Los Angeles, and Jersey City. He used two primary methodologies. First, he conducted extensive fieldwork observing the physical layout of the city. Then, in-depth interviews with city residents were conducted to better understand the mental image people have of their built environment. Lynch identified five key elements that make up an individual's perception of their city: paths, edges, districts, nodes, and landmarks. IMAGE OF THE ENVIRONMENT • Legibility • Building the image • Structure and identity • Imageability Apparent clarity 2 –way process Long familiarity Identity Striking features Structure New object meaning Well formed Distinct Remarkable Invite eye and ear His Concepts • • • • Place legibility Mental maps of a city Paths, edges, districts, nodes, and landmarks Imageability He used Boston as one of his case studies. • There seems to be a public image of any given city which is the overlap of many individual images. • This analysis limits itself to the effects of physical, perceptible objects • It is taken for granted that in actual design form should be used to reinforce meaning, and not to negate it. • These images may be called a mind mapping system. • The contents of the city images, which are referable to physical forms, can conveniently be classified into five types of elements Paths Edges Districts Nodes Landmarks 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Paths • Paths are the channels along which the observer moves. They may be streets, walkways, transit lines, canals, railroads. • For many people, these are the predominant elements in their image. People observe the city while moving through it, and along these paths the other environmental elements are arranged and related. • How people associate and remember paths?  Customary travel along one specific path.  Concentration of special use or activity along a street may give it prominence in the minds of observers.  Special façade characteristics were also important for path identity.  People tended to think of path destinations and origin points: they liked to know where paths came from and where they led • The second common cause of misalignment to the rest of the city was the sharp separation of a path from surrounding elements. – Los angeles freeways – The railroad lines – The subway • A large number of paths may be seen as a total network, when repeating relationships are sufficiently regular and predictable. The Los Angeles grid is a good example. • Almost every subject could easily put down some twenty major paths in correct relation to each other. At the same time, this very regularity made it difficult for them to distinguish one path from another. THE PATH sense of progression continuity scaled The dynamic shaping of the movement line gives Identity The presence of the path may be made evident by high landmark along it. a “Melodic Line”. Edges • Edges are the linear elements not used or considered as paths by the observer. They are the boundaries between two phases, linear breaks in continuity: shores, railroad cuts, edges of development, walls. • These edge elements, although probably not as dominant as paths, are for many people important organizing features, particularly in the role of holding together generalized areas, as in the outline of a city by water or wall. • Those edges seem strongest which are not only visually prominent, but also continuous in form and impenetrable to cross movement. The Charles River in Boston is the best example and has all of these qualities. In Jersey City, the waterfront was also a strong edge, but a rather forbidding one. It was a no-man’s land, a region beyond the barbed wire. Districts • Districts are character areas perceived to have common characteristics, a separate visual identity from the rest of environment. • These areas can be recognized as a thematic unit. • Good physical characteristics of districts are determined by continuities and homogeneities of facades materials, textures, spaces, forms, details, symbols, building type, uses, Activities, inhabitants, colors, skyline topography, …etc.(Lynch,1960). • All these features give a district its identity, create intimacy between its parts, and identify the basic clues of the city. • Districts may have various kinds of boundaries that offer different characters, as some may be soft, hard, certain or uncertain, thus they may reinforce or limit district identity. • Districts may be in relation with each other, well-connected together, then they are in an extrovert character. • On the contrary, they may stand alone to their zone, in other words they are not linked together, then they are in an introvert character (Lynch, 1960). • The termination of a district is its edge. Some districts have no edges at all but gradually taper off and blend into another district. When two districts are joined at one edge they form a seam. THE EDGES Termination points visibility Structuring the city THE LANDMARK singularity, its contrast with its context or background. Sense of orientation arranged so that a whole journey is identified Fig: Districts Fig: District events (source: Lynch, 1960) • Nodes are points, the strategic spots in a city into which an observer can enter, and which are the intensive foci to and from which he is travelling. • They may be primarily junctions, places of a break in transportation, a crossing or convergence of paths, moments of shift from one structure to another. • Or the nodes may be simply concentrations, which gain their importance from being the condensation of some use or physical character, as a street corner hangout or an enclosed square. • The concept of node is related to the concept of path, since junctions are typically the convergence of paths, events on the journey. • It is similarly related to the concept of district, since cores are typically the intensive foci of districts, their polarizing center. In any event, some nodal points are to be found in almost every image, and in certain cases they may be the dominant feature. NODES • According to Lynch “Nodes are the strategic foci into which the observer can enter, typically either junctions of paths, or concentrations of some characteristic” (Lynch, 1960: 72). • In fact, the city itself can be imaged as a node with respect to a large enough level. • Nodes can be recognized even when they are shapeless, but when supported by a strong physical form, then they become memorable (Lynch,1960). • Good recognizable node should have its identity through singularity and continuity of walls, floor, planting, lighting, topography, silhouette, function, clarity of shape and intensity of use. • Location determines nodes utilization, as locating nodes on main routes make movement economy more efficient than those located away from. NODES THE NODES THE DISTRICTS an area of homogeneous character Avoid locating nodes away from the main routes Nodes on main routes offer More efficiency and best Capture the movement economy Fig: Best place for nodes. LANDMARKS • Landmarks are another type of point-reference, but in this case the observer does not enter within them, they are external. • They are usually a rather simply defined physical object: building, sign, store, or mountain. Their use involves the singling out of one element from a host of possibilities. • Some landmarks are distant ones, typically seen from many angles and distances, over the tops of smaller elements, and used as radial references. They may be within the city or at such a distance that for all practical purposes they symbolize a constant direction. Such are isolated towers; domes, great hills. Other landmarks are primarily local, being visible only in restricted localities and from certain approaches, these are the innumerable signs, store fronts, trees, doorknobs, and other urban detail, which fill in the image of most observers. • They are frequently used clues of identity and even of structure, and seem to be increasingly relied upon, as a journey becomes more and more familiar. Landmarks, the point references considered to be external to the observer, are simple physical elements that may vary widely in scale. • Landmarks become more easily identifiable, more likely to be chosen as significant, if they have a clear form; if they contrast with their background; and if there is some prominence of spatial location. • Location at a junction involving path decisions strengthens a landmark, • Historical associations, or other meanings, are powerful reinforcements. Once a history, a sign, or a meaning attaches to an object, its value as a landmark rises. THE KINAESTHETIC EXPERIENCE Environments are experienced as a dynamic, emerging, unfolding temporal sequence . To describe the visual aspect of townscape Gordon Cullen (1961 ) conceived the concept of ‘serial vision’. A view of an urban scene The visual appearance of a town or urban area Amalfi Coast, Campania, Italy Townscape Madrid Character and appearance of spaces and buildings in an identified area of a town Serial Vision is a tool with which human imagination can begin to mould the city into a coherent drama. The human mind reacts to a contrast, to the difference between things, and when two pictures with a vivid contrast is felt, the town becomes visible in a deeper sense. Two elements of serial vision: existing view and emerging view Here what could simply have been one picture reproduced four times Serial vision as a means of comprehending, enjoying and designing the public spaces of a city by creating memorable visual contrasts and images. Approach from the central vista to Rashtrapati Bhavan SERIAL VISION The Rashtrapati Bhavan is gradually revealed and the mystery culminates Role of levels & screening Each view enlarging the centre of the previous view & bringing us near to the terminal building SERIAL VISION • Sequence of revelations. • Manipulate the elements of town so that impact on emotions is achieved. • To walk from one end of the plan to another at a uniform pace will provide a sequence of surprise. so an impact is made on eye. Four of Bosselmann's walks in (i) Rome, Italy; (ii) London, UK; (iii) Copenhagen, Denmark; and (iv) Kyoto, japan. The walks illustrated are the same length in terms of distance but the perception of time taken and the experience of the walk vary. (source: Bosselmann, 1 998, pp. 70, 76, 79 and 81) Walking through an environment that engages the mind, one is less aware of the passing of time, but when one reflects on that experience and the variety of sensations contained within it, one assumes more time must have passed. Conversely, in an environment that does not engage the mind one is more aware of the passing of time, but in retrospect the absence of sensations leads to the belief that less time passed. Principles of spatial containment and enclosure (adapted from Booth, 1983) STREETS AND SQUARES Streets and squares can be characterised as either 'formal' or 'informal' A ‘picturesque’ approach to urban space design. Series of artistic principles: i) ENCLOSURE A good sense of contained and enclosed space - Piazza Santa Croce, Florence, Italy One means for achieving this was the 'turbine' plan. The royal square Piazza della Signoria,Florence Series of artistic principles: ii) FREESTANDING SCULPTURAL MASS iii) SHAPE iv) MONUMENTS Rothenburg,Tauber square For e.g., The square in Rothenburg,Germany has a building dividing the square appropriately based on the thoroughfares existing there. Generally the built is built with remaining built on site. this square stands out but with a reason. The clarity of void is what was of utmost priority. Town Squares Most important factors for distribution: Its function Traffic patterns Examples of types of squares and how they originated: Port town - main square at the waterfront City gates - space on either side often developed into squares, channelers of traffic and long distance commerce Palace square - exists universally Square for nobility " palace square" Could be extended to nobility - the granting to the private residence the dignity of a public square Traffic pressures at crossroads Seen in Baroque city form - plazas inserted where radial avenues join Urban Square ?... • An urban square is an open public space commonly found in the heart of a city used for community gatherings. • a forum for exchange, both social and economic ideas • Their significance and intensity of meaning is expressed through “harder” intensively used landscaping. Piazza Grande - Roman • They tend to be formal and urban in nature in contrast to parks and open space, which are typically soft landscaped, larger and less intensively used. Piazza del Campo,Siena, Italy The History of Urban Squares • The first urban formations appeared 6000 years ago • Urban squares were established at the crossroads of important trade routes Greek Agora Roman Fora The Renaissance- Place des Vosges,Paris Medieval Square -Piazza St.Marco,Venice The Baroque General Classification of Urban Squares according to use Ceremonial Rossio ,Lisboa,Portugal court elm court, london Cathedral, Temple St.Peter’s Rome street, shopping Times square,new york Traffic Circle Xinghai Square - Dalian Social Trafalgar square,UK CITY GATE PLAZAS Parisier Platz in Berlin CITY GATE PLAZAS königplatz in Munich Design over Time – Piazza Del Popolo The Primary North entrance to the city for centuries. Plaza del Popolo Multiple systems Renaissance and Baroque - towns squares arranged into systems of urban design Often abstract rules of composition Multiple systems of squares in Renaissance - Cataneo (1554) and Scamozzi (1615) treatises Gridded schemes with squares inserted Penn, Savannah Even Versailles, a zenith of Baroque design But as a rule: Baroque - a rich variety of geometric shapes Constantinople, reconstruction of the city’s appearance in the 9th-11th centuries,showing the string of forums. Disencumbering High point was 1880 - 1910 (although related to 1950's and 1960s - Albany) Setting monuments out in open spaces Building isolation - seen as early as the Renaissance Laws of Indies advocated it A church with a space around it = a cake on a platter (Sitte) Must everything be seen all at once? This was discussed even more so at mid-19th c. Brought on in part by Haussmann The ideology is that public buildings should be treated as works of art How much space was needed around the building to view it? Typologies Public places vary by use and by form But they have multiple uses that change over time Versatility is a central issue The more specific the design, the less versatile If designed deliberately for one purpose, then locked into that The Classifiers Josef Stubben Manual for city planning, Der Stadtebau Paul Zucker, 1959, Town and Square: From the Agora to the Village Green Focused on space Stops at 1800 because "awareness of third dimension vanishes in 19th c." Rob Krier, Urban Space, 1979 Urban spaces as systems Typology without history (examples come from everywhere, in any time) Urban space in 3 main groups, according to the pattern of their ground plan: 1. the square 2. the circle 3. the triangle The Closed Square The Dominated Square The Nuclear Square Classification by Paul Zucker The Grouped Squares The Amorphous Square Closed Square: Paris, France Urban Square Place des Vosges, Closed Square: Arcade in Place des Vosges Urban Square Colonnade in Agora - Priene The Dominated Square: St. Peter’s, Rome Place de l’Odeon, Paris Urban Square Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris The Dominated Square: Squares subordinate to the Street –gate axis Pariser Platz, Berlin Piazza del Popolo, Rome Fontana di Trevi, Rome Urban Square Fountain dominating the Square, The Dominated Square: Maria Theresien strasse, Innsbruck Subordinating Square to the continuous axis Piazza Vittorio Veneto, Turin Dominating element is a broad river Praca do Comercio, Lisbon Urban Square Dominating element may also be a Void The Nuclear Square: Donatello’s equestrian figure Piazza del Santo in Padua, Italy Trafalgar square, London Urban Square Nelson’s column The Grouped Square: Imperial Fora, Rome Urban Square Sequence of Squares developed in a straight axis The Grouped Square: Piazza and Piazzetta in Venice Urban Square Non-axial organization of Squares The Grouped Square: Palazzo Podesta in Bologna, Italy Urban Square Squares around one Dominant building The Grouped Square: Piazza d’Erbe and Piazza dei Signori Urban Square Two seperated squares with coherence The Amorphous Square: Place de l’Opera in Paris Urban Square Boulevard and Metro ruin Dominated Square Classification by Rob Krier Classification by Rob Krier Classification by Rob Krier Classification by Rob Krier Classification by Rob Krier Shapes of squares Triangle - usually a result of crossroads; Place Dauphine was deliberate triangle, but at the point of an island Trapezoid Square - a perfect one is rare; Place de Vosges in Paris; because sides are equal, emphasis is difficult Rectangle is much more common, and allows emphasis on monument at one end L-shape Circle - the rond-point; the Place de L'Etoile; English version is the "circus" Classifying according to use More about social history Markets (already discussed) Civic center Place for public business, not necessarily communal self-government Greek agora Its function is political and social Later commercial Place for public meetings Expression of collective political power Middle ages There is a religious center and a separate civic center Two public forums Age of Absolutism Civic spaces vs. space for nobility 19th c., end of absolutism civic center disperses into multiple squares Place d'armes Place for the army to show its muscle State ceremonies with troops involved very common (in many cultures) Democratic Civic Centre: The Greek Agora Games Brueghel, 16th c. Traffic Throughout history there has been a debate about the conflict between the needs of traffic and of people Roman forum was closed to traffic Ways to offset traffic, if open to it turbine plaza, common in medieval; once inside traffic goes around The English square was exclusive on principle, 17th and 18th centuries French, in contrast, thought the public square should be free and open to everything Eugene Henard's carrefour a gyration, 1906, Paris Combines pedestrian underpasses, raised platform, traffic The residential square Housing and town squares are very compatible Since at least the middle ages Residential squares are uniform, exclusive Originate in Renaissance, in Italy French had royal places, sponsored by Kings English square - less likelihood of shops on the square Originally stark, but now with large trees Many squares remained unplanted until 1800 As horizontal lines are visually faster than vertical lines, the character of streets (as of squares) can be modified to make them more or less dynamic. TOWNSCAPE Relationship of HERE and THERE Enclosure, pinpointing, truncation, change of level, netting, silhouette, grandiose vista, division of space, screened vista, handsome gesture, closed vista, deflection, projection and recession, incident, punctuation, narrows, fluctuation, undulation, closure and recession. ENCLOSURE The Piazza Navona Plaza mayor Madrid A space enclosed by the walls or other boundaries of a particular place or building, or by an arbitrary and imaginary line drawn around it. CLOSURE cutting up of the linear town system (streets, passages, etc.) into visually digestible and coherent amounts whilst retaining the sense of progression MULTIPLE ENCLOSURE Enclosure on the other hand provides a complete private world which is inward looking, static and self-sufficient. separate enclosures combined into one interpenetrating whole Visual survey • Graphic examination of the key physical elements and functional character of an area. • A vocabulary of symbols exist: edge, path, node, landmark, district (after Lynch) that enables an urban designer to characterize, in graphic form, the key elements of the urban fabric. • Visual survey is an urban design tool used to communicate the perceptions of the structure and organization of a city. • Imageability/legibility: A more legible city makes us feel less anxious about finding our way about in the city Visual Analysis The visual analysis has three main parts: a study of a three dimensional public space, a study of the two dimensional surfaces which enclose public space, and a study of architectural details which give an area its special character. The most common tools for recording spatial composition are the camera and the threedimensional perspective drawn from the normal eye level. 4 1 5 2 3 4 • A visual survey is an examination of the form, appearance, and composition of a city…an evaluation of its assets (to be protected) and liabilities (to be corrected. • As an analysis of a city, its objectives are twofold: - To establish the relationship between spatial components as well as assessment of their condition - To determine where the area investigated needs improvement /reshaping/remodelling A visual survey can be made at different urban scales: macro to micro • A visual survey calls for a descriptive vocabulary for identification and relation of spatial elements in order to understand the form, function, and consequent appearance of given space. • A good survey generates ideas for action: areas of improvement correction total replacement. Components of a visual survey 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. Image of the city Landform and Nature Local Climate Shape of urban form Size and Density Pattern, Grain, and Texture Urban Spaces and Open Spaces Routes of movement Districts/Enclaves/Sectors Activity structure Orientation Details Pedestrian areas Vistas and skylines Non-physical Aspects Problem Areas