Week 3 2017

This week I’ve finished the second draft of my assessors response and circulated it to my supervisors.

The draft can be accessed here: assessors-response-ghm-1601

Further on literature:

Appleyard, D., Gerson, S., Lintell, M. (1981). Liveable Streets. University of California Press Berkley. Los Angeles, London.

On the difference of heavier and lighter streets:
despite of the ‘pleasant appearance, its environment was inferior to the slightly less immaculate light street. The ultimate irony was that the rents were higher on the heavy street, probably because of the faster turn over of apartments.’ p. 26

‘Life on the light street, on the other hand, was in some ways idyllic. Residents were much more engaged in the street. They saw it as their own territory. Their children played on the sidewalk and in the street. They had many more friends and acquaintances, and they were generally much more aware of its detailed qualities. The contrast between the two was striking. On the one hand alienation, on the other friendliness and involvement.’ p. 26

On light streets people tend to have more children. The lack of children in the heavy street may be partly explained by the fact that social life was impoverished and many treated the street as a transient hotel than as a residence. p. 27

Ecology of the street graphic p. 31

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Controlling driving behaviour depends on understanding and communicating with the driver psychology –> perception, expectation, and attitudes. p. 32

‘The Emmissions from traffic include noise, vibration, air pollution, dirt, trash thrown out of windows, and visual ugliness. Control of these emissions through vehicle redesign is an important way of increasing street livability.’ p. 33

 

 

Richard Sennett (1990). The Conscience of the eye. The Design of Social Life of Cities. faber and faber. London & Boston.

‘This divide between inner, subjective experience and outer, physical life expresses in fact a great fear which our civilization has refused to admit, much less to reckon. The space full of people in the modern city are either spaces limited to and carefully orchestrating consumption, like the shopping mall, or spaces limited to and carefully orchestrating the experience of tourism. This reduction and trivializing of the city as a stage of life is no accident.’ p. xii

He sees a profound “spiritual” reason behind why people are willing to  tolerate such a bland scene for their lives. Further he notes that the way cities look reflects a great fear of exposure. ‘”Exposure” more connotes the likelihood of being hurt than of being stimulated.’ p. xii

Cities remove the “threat” of social contact through intervention such as street walls faced in sheets of plate glass, highways that cut of poor neighbourhoods from the rest of the city, dormitory housing developments. p. xii

Christianity set Western culture upon the course that built a wall between the inner and outer experience. p. xii

Further Sennett argues that ” attempts to unify the inner and outer dimensions simply by tearing down the wall, making the inner and outer one organic whole, have not proved successful, unity can be gained only at the price of complexity. p. xiii

–> He wrote this book in 1990, prior the advent of the smart phone technology. Through modern technology this wall has somewhat shifted or might be even broken. Sennett considers the next big task: how to revive the reality of the outside as a dimension of human experience. p.xiii

Sennett suggest that this battle on the street of witnessing diversity and difficulty can only be won, by an changes of ones orientation. In other word by keeping the balance. The Greeks referred to it as sophrosyne (grace or poise). This person today would be considered as ‘centered’. ‘A city  ought to be a school for learing how to lead a centered life. Through exposure to others, we might learn how to weight what is important and what is not. We need to see differences on the streets or in other people neither as threats nor as sentimental invitations, rather as necessary visions. They are necessary for us to learn how to navigate life with balance, both individually and collectively.’ p. xiii

Donal Olsen in his book “The city as a work of art” argues that creative powers take a humane form and turn people outwards. He suggests that our culture is in need for an art of exposure; this art won’t make us victims one another. Instead it allows for more balanced adults, capable of coping with and learning from complexity. p. xiv

‘theory’ comes from the Greek word ‘theoria’ –> meaning ‘look at’  ‘seeing’. –> physical experience in light with understanding  or ‘illumination’. p. 8

In relation to feelings, truth and the street:
Experiences such as ‘love become disturbed because feelings are kept insight, invisible- the realm where truth is kept. And places people live in become puzzling. The street is a scene of outside life, and what is to be seen on the street are beggars, tourists, merchants, students, children playing, old people resting- a scene of human difference. ‘ p. 9

Lao-tzu: “The true reality of a room is not its walls but the emptiness they contain.” quoted in Paul Zucker, Town and Square (New York: Colombia University Press, 1959) p. 94.

Medieval city builders were not concerned with order- instead they created contrast between order and disordered spaces with no need to understand it. p. 14

The discontinuity was created by permitted random houses and squares. Their sprouting created the ‘necessary contrast to make clarity speak as an experience of faith’. p. 14

The parvis (the space in front of a church was part of the zone of immunity), was a place of public ritual, plays, and political speech. The open space sanctuary resolved itself into gardens- transition zones that function as silence at the center. p. 17

This parvis protected the people from the city. p.19

–> similar to Gozo, Xhara Play in front of the church, festival in the piazza.

‘This dualism between inside and outside became first visible as urban form in the medieval way of marking territory.’ p. 18

Medieval builders protected the spirits within the church and walls from the street. p.21

Ferdinand Tönnies – distinguished between ‘Gemeinschaft’ and ‘Gesellschaft’. For him ‘Gemeinschaft’ encompasses a face to face relationship in a place that ‘was small and socially enclosed.’ p. 23
A ‘Gesellschaft’ was a more exposed mute exchange.

Sennett creates an example evolving around a pot. Buying a pot at a local market, involving haggling was an experience associated with ‘Gemeinschaft’. Compared to buying a pot in a department shop in silence as an operations, which is associated with ‘Gesellschaft’. p. 23- 24.

‘The more enclosed and inward in each is supposedly the more sociable. Images of people touching and talking, their communion as their bond, are scenes of subjective life at last established and opened up: Gemeinschaft could literally be translated as “sharing what is within me.’ p.24

Sanctuary in western culture is associated with the possibility of psychological development. p.24

According to Freud- human development is about gradual unfolding, physical, mental and psychological, each step consequent for the future. p.30

The stimulation of the street as a place to develop lacked the sequential order of internal rooms of an house and self-development became opposed in visual terms. p.31

Sennett made the remark, ‘an early Chrsitan would read the modern design as bound to fail because our culture is in pursuit of self-development rather than a faith transcending the self.’ p. 31

One may argue in order to evolve we need to stop self- development and start focusing on enabling environments where we can transcend ourself’s.

Further Sennett argues in relation to western culture and space, that a space of authority, has developed as a place for precision: ‘that is the guidance it gives to others’. p. 36

‘Today the secular spaces of authority is empty; it looks like the side street of the Rockefeller Center.’ p. 37

‘The visual forms of legibility in urban design or space no longer suggests much about subjective life or heal the wounds of those in need. The sanctuary of the Christian city has been reduced to a sense of comfort in well-designed places where other people do not intrude. Safe because empty: safe because clearly marked. Authority is divorced from community: this is the conundrum of sanctuary as it has evolved in the city.’ p. 37

‘The planner sees who designs neutral, sterile environments. The planner never meant to, of course. Still, it is curious how the designers of parking lots, malls and public plazas seem to be endowed with a positive genius for sterility, in the use of materials and in details, as well as in overall planning. This compulsive neutralizing of the environment is rooted in part in an old unhappiness, the fear of pleasure, which led people to treat their surroundings as neutrally as possible. The modern urbanist is in the grip of Protestant ethic of space.’ p. 42

The Protestant imagination of space is expressed as a desire for power. An obsessive inner struggle with a deep hostility towards the need of others through a resentment in their pure presence. For example homeless people on the street ‘they are resented because they, who are obviously needy, are visible. p. 45

In accrodance to Sennett this implies a cultural problem visible through impersonality, it’s alienating scale and it’s coldness resulting in a lack of value. p. 46

The acceptance of visual denial in everyday life becomes the new ‘normal’. In fact more than that as Sennett points out as reassurance with ‘nothing as important as the inner struggle to account. Therefore, one can deal with the outside in purely instrumental, manipulative terms, since nothing outside “really” matters. In this modulated form, neutrality becomes an instrument of power.’ p. 46

Street grids –> an expression of culture. A rationality of city life. ‘No physical design, however, dictates a permanent meaning. Grids, like any other design, become whatever particular society make them represent.’ p. 48

‘The grid has been used in modern times as a plan that neutralizes the environment.’ p. 48
The loss of a center is the second way to neutralise a space. p. 49

In the modern context citizens ‘are a complicated instrument of offices and restaurants and shops for the conduct of business.’ p. 52

The grid is a ‘weapon to be used against environmental character’ p. 52

The grid as a place for economic competition, to be played upon like  a chessboard. It was a space of neutrality,  a neutrality achieved by denying to the environment any value of its own.’ p. 55

‘Places without centers or boundaries, spaces of endless, mindless geometric divisions. This was the Protestant ethic of space.’ p. 55

‘The refraction of power is as true of modern architects as it was of early capitalist who sought to take control of the world through detachment.’ p. 62

‘The spiritual struggle in its form as Protestant ethic denies the outside a reality in itself; denies the value of being present in the world.’ p. 65- 66

‘Control is a meaningless word uptown; here it is a synonym for anxiety.’ p. 66

‘The material abundance aroused by the division of labor were to be frustrated in the course of the industrial revolution, as in the home this principle of division of labour was to create an environment of emotional isolation. … It was indeed in those inventions which aimed to unify, rather than those which aimed to divide, that the Enlightenment showed true genius. This genius marked the Enlightenment’s planning of the physical environment, indeed shaped the very conception of the “outside”. For instance, the Enlightenment of the gardener sought to aid Nature in provisioning the pleasures of walking. Flâner means in French “to stroll along, observing,” a flâneur one who delights in doing so.’ p. 74

‘Consciousness that one is viewing an illusion is a heightened state of subjective self-awareness, and yet this was for Enlightenment no barrier to looking outwards.’ p.77

culture in opposition to civilization
‘culture represented for them the force of wholeness in society, while civilization represented a certain kind of acceptance of difference.’ p.79

‘Few planners who have pursued this path in the last generation would want to argue that “the people” best know their own needs; whether or not that is true, it is beside the point. In a society threatened by passivity and withdrawal, to encourage ordinary citizens to talk about social realities is to make the speakers care about one another.’ p.87-88.

‘The city is not only a civitas- a place of communication. It is alson on urbs,’ physical places that connect us. p.89

‘the is a conflict between building and people. the value of a building as a form is at odds with the value of a building in use. changing historical needs are seen as threats to he integrity of the original form, as through time were a source of impurity.’ p.98

‘ But in time enthusiasm arouse by experiences of unity between inside and outside subsided;”unity” came to refer to what objects were in themselves.’ p.99

The modern cult of the object is about what is left when the artist no longer strives to arouse that momentary sympathetic union between people and their environment. He or she seeks only for the sublime effect- the seizure, the shock in itself, for itself. At that moment anti-social art is born.’ p. 103

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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