Professional Practice
Architecture and urban design
Architecture and urban design: are these two professions, something completely different or merely two sides of same coin?

I maintain the idea that architecture includes urban design as well, and that a true master of architecture should be able to design an entire city with same level of quality and with same enthusiasm as he would be able to design a single house. The basic rules and guidelines are same in both professions, they are different mostly in details, mainly the scale.

For instance, let us consider the case of Le Corbusier; the design of his cities followed the same guidelins as design of his houses. His urban planning was merely an architecture on a fairly larger scale. He used his most basic plan, 5-point-modern architecture, to raise both his houses and his cities on pillars, give them green roofs and terraces, make them flexible and puncture them with light from all sides.

Some might say that such views are too simplistic to be realised (and indeed, most of Corbusier's town plans remained but an utopia); that you cannot plan cities by simply blowing up the basic concept of architecture many times to a fairly larger scale. However, I belive that things should be kept as simple as possible, and that ideas of true genius are so remrakably pure and simple that anybody who studies them afterwards can say "Oh yes, I could thought of that as well."

Your opinions, please!
Luka Trkanjec
Architecture and urban design
Hi Luka,

Let's be clear on one thing before we begin: urban design and urban planning are not interchangeable. Urban design is a subset of urban planning and includes the more architectural and smaller scale applications. Urban planning, on the other hand, could include anything from planning for the economics of an urban area to planning for its transportation system.

There are many architects today who do both architecture AND urban design, or urban planners who focus on urban design, but there are very few practising (emphasis on 'practice' as opposed to 'theorize') architects who do both buildings and city plans.
Ozgur Basak Alkan
Architecture and urban design
Ashraf Salama
Architecture and urban design
Any good work of architecture is inclusive of urban design. It is the increasing trend towards specialization that is causing the formation of various fields. Whereas, I have no problems with these fields per se, it is when they see themselves as isolated or pure entities, that the problem creeps in.

The second line of thought that i see here is the idea of absolute vs. accommodating. I personally admire Le Corbusier's architecture and find that the experience afforded by his works are really interesting. I, however, have reservations regarding his view of the city as a 'painting', a work of art. it is almost exlusivist in nature, implying that nothing can be added or subtracted from it at the owners discretion. The broader the scope of work, the more accommodative (as opposed to ambiguous or general) one has to be.

I would also like to touch upon the idea of simplicity that Luka is talking of. Yes, simplicity is very good and necessary. The big question is what is this simplicity applied to? For example, a tree is a very simple organism, the simplicity lies in its system and not its formal characteristics. Similarly, a city could be evolved on a very simple notion of axis, matrix, sea and mountain or front and back etc. and yet its built form could manifest in many shapes and sizes like all the variations in trees.
Vishwanath Kashikar
Architecture and urban design
Hey Luka and Ozgur glad to see you guys get passionate about architecture, urban design and urban planning. Better make that distinction before some heads fly off. Mine in particular.

The Urban Designer in my estimation is theoretically the most important piece of the puzzle. The middle person to bridge the gap between architects and urban planners alike. Ideally the Urban designer should be the one consulting back and forth between the Urban Planner and architect. They should have knowledge of both fields, Architecture and Urban Planning. It is with this working knowledge of the two disciplines that a dynamic city can be created.

As for the Architect being an urban planner, I think it is best left as two different job description. Of course it is always good for both professionals to have knowledge of each respective fields. In reality the only thing the architects profession deals with are designing issues. His/her concern is only the making of the building and the parameters are set by the Urban Planner, and Urban designer.

My experience in either three of the professions are limited but I imagine that the urban planner is highly influenced by politicians and their political agendas. The designing of a city is really the making of a people. A good city design will allow the people to flourish and move towards a positive direction. Now this is not always in the interest of politicians. The control of the masses is their key to success.

Before I go let me site an example that is related to this issue. My sister and her husband and their two children(their twins)moved into a certain urban centre that at the time was considered average. They renovated their home and upgraded the appearance. Much to their surprise and "luck" there were alot of other young couples doing the same in their neighbourhood. In the matter of two to three years the neighbourhood started being classified from middle-class to upscale and the property in that area soared 100 percent and is going up. They started getting noted in the local magazines as the trendy new area, "what a cool neighbourhood", "a growing arts community"," a wonderful place to raise your family"etc. What I am getting at is that the urban planner, urban designer and architect can never predict, how their plans will work amongst a living community. A once mediocre neighbourhood transformed into an upscale and dynamic community. You just never know when the mix of people is right. It is people who make cities, neighbourhoods and homes. Something an Urban Planner, Urban Designer and Architect should always consider when designing.

Take Care.
Abdul Basit Mukri
Architecture and urban design
Dear all,

Let me frist try to clear up some misconceptions I might have caused with my poor knoweledge of English terminology. In my country, we use mainly the terms architecture and urbanism. To keep it simply, architecture is designing of buildings. Urbanism is designing of settlements; it includes both urban planing and urban design. The difference between the later two were explained by Ozgur. So, the name of this topic should actualy be architecture and urbanism, and I will apply the later word for aynthing dealing with designing of settlements or any form of open, public spaces. The idea of this topic is to explore whetever designing of buildings (and all spaces, interior/exterior tied to them) and planing of settlements (and, again, all spaces tied to them; squares, streets, parks, etc.) are two different, specialised disciplines, or a single unspecialised profession. I hope we are now clear on that.

It is true that today there are very few people who make both architecture and plan settlements. However, this was not the case throughout much of human history. Vitruvius in his 'Ten books' gives both instructions on how to desing buildings as seperate units, as well as how to plan entire towns as whole. Architecture and urbanism were completly unseparable whole in many marvelous cultures of East and West. Even in past hundred years, some of greatest masters of architecture planned entire cities; we have already mentioned Corbusier with most of the qualities and flaws of his urban ideas, but there are also Louis Khan, Oscar Niemeyer.

Dividing architecture and urbanism into two seperate closets is, IMHO, a very dangerous practice. A single building can have a tremendous impact on its urban environment, becoming a trademark of a city, country, nation... Udson's Opera in Sydney became a trademark of an entire continent. How will an architect, who is completely deaf towards an urbanism, be ever able to design or deal with a building who will have such an impact on its surroundings? Similarly, how will an urbanist, who had no experience with architecture, ever be able to plan a settlement that will allow for such an architecture, a settlement that will develop a genus loci, that will have a feeling, that will atract people, develop, become more than a place where people merely live?
Luka Trkanjec
Architecture and urban design

Luka, I completely agree with you that dividing architecture and urbanism is a dangerous idea. As you have rightly mentioned, historically speaking, people who designed cities also designed buildings. I would like to go a step further and say that people who designed buildings also designed products and/or painted. People like Leonardo da Vinci, Alberti, Michelangelo, Le corbusier were artists and that gave them a very different conception of architecture. I think we lack this today. As architects or as professionals, we forget to be imaginators or visualisors first. The very difference between the computer and the brain is that the brain is not compartmentalised; or rather there is a lot of interchange between the different compartments.

This is not to take away from the field of urbanism or urban planners. People who can understand the makings of the city are also required. But again going back to what Luka said, we have stopped thinking simple. How come all the great cities that we still talk of (Venice, Istanbul, Samarkand, Paris) were not designed by urban planners or architects but were designed by many builders and common people. We need to learn something from that and stop viewing buildings and cities in terms of excel charts and pie diagrams!
Vishwanath Kashikar
Architecture and urban design
Vishwaneth! I totally agree that the person who is capable of designing a house/building, should be able to design many other things, including a city, but this is the mark of a genius person. Now everybody is not a genius, like Leonardo da Vinci, Alberti, Michelangelo, Le corbusier etc.(1) Urban planning, urban design and architecture are each on their own level very challenging and life-consuming professions. Everybody doesn't have the glory of genius but that does not make them any less of person. Each person is fulfilling their destiny, be it genius,architect, urban planner, urban designer etc. What they do with their talents is another story.

Now let me ask a question, just what do you (Vishwaneth) and Luka think a city is? It sounds more like you guys are talking about towns and neighbourhoods. If that is the case than sure an architect can design a town/neighbourhood but why, when their is already a profession that serves that very function ie. Urban Designer. The designing of a city is not that simple. There are so many logistics and ideas behind creating a modern city, that I'm sure it takes more than one Urban Planner to do so. Let alone one architect.

This might sound strange but do people set out to make cities, isn't the making of a city an organic phenomenon, starting with neighbourhoods, than towns to city. If the former is the case than it is surely a monumental task to set out to do. Then for certain the Urban planner should be consulting with the urban designers and architects and vice versa. A well-designed city should have the three respective professions input on a regular basis to achieve success. If each profession is seperate and insulated from each other, than this could very well explain why the majority of new and modern cities fail in creating a meaningful, beautiful and livable city.

Another question, When we speak of cities, just what does it mean? What constitutes that a place be called a city? Is it size? A modern city is very different from a traditional one. What does it mean, when we say "city"?

Before I go let me suggest something to think about. I believe that the best candidate suited to design a city is neither the Architect, Urban Planner or the Urban Designer but the one who's best travelled and who has experienced different cities of the world. Now the Architect, Urban Planner and Urban Designer can still qualify to design a city but he/she should at the same time be well travelled and have experienced (physically) many cities, to do so.

Thank you and I hope I haven't offended anybody. If my crass understanding of Architecture is what you get at, than be free to correct me. I'm a student who is willing to learn.

On a personal level, would you guys be so obliged to share the meaning of your names; Luka, Vishwanath, Ozgur, Ashraf... It will (for me) make the conversation that much more real. Tell me yours and I'll tell you mine...ha,ha. Don't worry I can't do nothing with the meaning of a first name. I just want to know if I'm talking to human beings and not just ideas. Take Care.

1- How dare I say "etc." in the same sentence with Leonardo da Vinci, Alberti, Michelangelo, Le Corbusier.
Abdul Basit Mukri
Architecture and urban design
Dear Abdul,

You have raised a very interesting question, and that is what exactly city is nowdays? Through almost all of human history, in almost all cultures, city was defined as a settlement enclosed by walls. Even the very word city derives from citadel, fortified settlement. Less than two hundred years ago, this concept was abandoned, when cities started to grow rapidly, their walls were demolished, and they were transformed from fortified settlements into something else. However, the question is just what? What are cities today? Villages with populations of millions? Oversized urban organisms who, if they continue their cancerous growth, will end up choking themselves to death or crumble apart into many pieces?

Perhaps this could be the reason why we have this disscusion. A thousand years ago or more, architecture and urbanisam were inseperable disciplines excatly because if you planed a city, you had to start with architecture; you had to plan a wall, defensive perimeters, city gates, towers, etc., and then plan the layout of streets, squares and publice spaces inside of it. Also, a thousand years ago, cities were few, and planing and building new ones was seen as an esential task, investement into the future. And thousand years ago, living in a city and being its citizen was considered a privilege, status quo.

Today, we have a great deal of people who live in cities and would like nothing better than to get outside of it. Today, very few (acctualy none AFAIK) new cities are being built, because cities are numerous in the world, likely the prevailing form of human settlement. Urbanists have their hands filled just with organising cities which exist. Third, I wonder what is that makes up the identitiy of a city today in such a maner that city wall was defining a city throughout the human history? Is there any form of architecture which is nowdays tied to a city that without it, city would stop being a city and become a village (just as thousand years ago, a city without walls was not a city but a village, regardless of the size of its population)? If the anwser to that question is no (and I suspect it might be), i.e., today there exits no architectural identitiy of a city per definition, then we may face a serious problem: we may live in an age where cities acctualy do not exist.

My name ultimately derives from the latin word Lux, Lucis, meaning Light. I fancy myself on thinking that Luka would be 'enlightened one', 'iluminated one'. The acctual history of my name is somewhat simpler. In Latin Luka is Lucas, which simply means 'a man from Lucaia'. Lucaia (or something like that, can't remeber the exact name now) was an ancient Roman province somewhere in Italy, and people who came from there usualy got such a nickname, Lucas, which through a thousand years was shortened to Luca in Italian, or Luka in Croatian.
Luka Trkanjec
Architecture and urban design
Dear Luka,

Sorry for taking so long. Ashraf, thanks for the link to the related thread, it was informative. I do share Prof. Chauhan's notion of the importance of urban design and its crucial role of linking architecture and planning.

I'd like us to think for a bit about Le Corbusier's urban planning. He liked to create, as you have mentioned, very simple designs that are based on a single sketch for most cities (take his designs for Rio or Algiers, for example)but some of his more developed earlier designs -- like the Ville Radieuse -- are far from being simple. They are in fact quite complicated in the way they operate.

I will criticize Le Corbusier's vision on several points. a) He did not care about the existing urban fabric b) His city plans (such as Ville Radieuse) are based on a clear distinction of social classes and promotes their separation and not their mingling c) He totally negates the street as an urban element. In fact, he wants to make it part of the architecture too -- like the small grocery store on the mid-floors of his Unite d'Habitation in Marseilles d) He did not realize that his type of concrete buildings will age very badly and make the whole city look decrepit if not maintained (the Unite d'Habitation is another case in point to this)

I think the third (the street) is the most crucial point here. In a society where noone monitors or feels ownership of the street (i.e. the street right in front of your building or your shop) and where municipal services are not delivered on a timely manner (which is most places), you will find that a) crime will increase -- a good example is the infamous Pruitt-Igoe housing blocks which had to be blown up because things became so bad b)the wonderful gardens that are supposed to exist between the buildings become garbage dumps and what else c) social relationships suffer in the lack commercial activity on the street (I suggest Jane Jacob's "The life and death of American cities").

And this is happening and has happened in many places around the world. My grandparent's live in a Le-Corbusieresque high-rise development in Turkey where the architects created all these nice canals between the buildings, which eventually had to be drained. In Shanghai, we visited the new city across the river, where they're building Le Corbusier's dream. It was absolutely terrible. And then, during our visit to the Shanghai City Museum, we saw this humongous model of the future Shanghai, all filled randomly with blocks and blocks of high-rises as far as the eye could see! I wonder if Le Corbusier expected his Radieuse scheme to be multiplied so many times in scale and continued infinitely on a grid (the original scheme is, after all, a bound unit)... I've heard from many who lived there that Niemeyer's city (Brasilia) is not the city it wants to be, because most people live in the huge slums surrounding it without access to any of its conveniences.

Yes, I confer with you that dividing architecture and urban planning is dangerous (architects and urban planners need to communicate), but making urban planning out of architecture is, IMHO, much more dangerous. As someone who's been in both fields, I can see clearly that architects and urban planners truly despise each other; urban planners think that architects don't know the first thing about cities and that they just 'rearrange the chairs on the deck while the Titanic is sinking', while architects think urban planners lack a clear understanding of aesthetics. There's got to be some misunderstandings here that need to be solved to allow for fruitful cooperation and respect between these two related but very different (in scale and content) disciplines.

But then, if we recede back even further to the eighteenth century, we get the likes of Schinkel, who was a great architect and -- in my opinion -- great urban planner. How did he manage it, I don't know. Maybe cities weren't the monsters they are today and most likely he did not plan his city for everyone as we tend to do today.

PS: As has been asked, my name means 'free'. My middle name means 'head of any grain' (i.e. the part that carries the seeds). My last name means 'red blood'.

Ozgur Basak Alkan
Architecture and urban design
Here's a photograph of the Shanghai model that I've referred to. Note: None of what you see in the foreground and mid-ground exists today, it's what's being planned for the future.

Ozgur Basak Alkan
Architecture and urban design

Well, even I am sorry for the delay in responding. Actually, it is the end of the semester and so was busy in checking papers!

I think this discussion is proceeding in an interesting direction, and I would like add further to it...

Firstly, i dont think we are saying that urban designers and planners are not required. What is being stressed is that these professions should not act in isolation. Very often we see planners and architects not seeing eye to eye in most matters. The planner thinks that he/she is solving great problems, whereas the architect lives in a world of fantasy and art. The architect thinks that the planner reduces everything to numbers and figures and is far removed from life.

It is this which is hurting us the most and resulting in the cities that we have ended up with today.

The question of developments in Shanghai and the likes are the resultant of another problem -- irresponsible globalisation. I don't think it is a direct result of architects trying to design cities. In fact, there was this whole era in planning, which sadly followed the grid iron like over simplistic principles (even Le Corbusier!) and applied it ad hoc to cities all over the world.

I would not go on about this because I think it is another topic, albeit, very interesting.

To reiterate, it is the mutually exclusive nature of these professions that is the problem. All professions are necessary but they have to learn to understand the others. If that doesn't happen, we will not be able to reconcile science and art!

P.S. the 'Vishwa' in my name means world, and 'nath' stands for Lord. I think I am heavily burdened with this name! My family name 'Kashikar' stands for someone who comes from the city of Kashi -- Varanasi.
Vishwanath Kashikar
Architecture and urban design
At the point of deciding which direction a designer wishes to follow such a discussion only heightens the confusion.

Most interesting the way we point out the differences between the two all the while stressing the importance of intergration. INTEGRATION... a coming together of thoughts and ideas. Do these thoughts and ideas come from the same source? That to me defeats the purpose of 'Integration'.

Perhaps its true that urbanism defines a preconceived idea of the final product BUT urban designers/planners can never be certain what the outcome of a project will be.

Self architects, while an all round vision of a design exists in the mind of the designer and is even constructed in reality right down to the red plastic door handles, the character comes from the people. The building is inhabited from within...

My heart begs for a urban uprising, a time when urbanism - Luka if you like - may be held in the same esteem as Architecture. Ever walked down a street and wondered where the pattern was? Who designed this mess is often a question I find myself asking particularly when the people DON'T offer any character to the SPACES they inhabit. Am I arrogant in assuming the people should form part of the intergration?

But I guess thats another topic all together. Can we 'Integrate'?
Yumna Moosa
Architecture and urban design
Thanks, Yumna, for reminding us professionals of one thing we always forget -- albeit not on purpose. The client: the urbanites. People are very important and they are certainly a part of this big equation. As are local and state politicians, real estate moghuls, police, transportation authorities, etc. etc...

But, who's going to mediate between these different groups? I think urban planners are often more equipped to work with people than to work with pen and paper, like architects.
Ozgur Basak Alkan
Architecture and urban design
Who is going to mediate between all these different dynamics of a city and the people who reside in them? In a traditional city, leadership was strong and their leadership worked best in small,qualitative groups. With our present situation, problems of population and lack of leadership are resulting in poor cities and quality of life. Really, how does one control such a population and their demands of it? The way the population is growing, it is no wonder that the urban planner and architect put little thought when planning and designing. So all that you are left with, are badly planned neighbourhoods/cities and manufactured/sub-par homes. A machine life, lacking real creativity and life.

If one is just worried about hunger and thirst, the only thought will be for food and water and not the quality of it. So it is with modern life and the increase of population. One is just worried about accomodating this cancereth growth, worrying little about quality and more about quantity. Creativity works best when time is given to sort the ideas out properly. Modern life does not permit such a thing, so if one is hoping that the the cities/neighbourhoods and homes are goin to improove...well that is just wishful thinking.

The only way change can occur is at a grassroots level. People don't complain enough about their neighbourhoods, cities and homes. They just continue living life never knowing if there are better alternatives to it. Majority of the populous won't have the luxury to travel and see the world, so it is are responsibilty as Urban Planners and architects , poloiticians and what not, to give the people something they can be proud of and live a happy existence. Responsibilty is everybodies burden, if architects and urban planners don't bear it than the result will be always the same, poor cities and monotous homes/buildings.

Urban planners and architects' profession are seperate because not one chooses it to be but because it has to be. The size and scope of a modern city would not permit it otherwise. In an ideal world the urban planner and architect should be one and should communicate with each other, but we don't live in an ideal world. The simple fact that we discuss these issues prooves the point. I urge that the urban planner, urban designer, architects and the people change for the better, it will only result in better cities and homes. Improving quality of life is what really counts.

Thank You

P.S. Thank you for sharing your names. (Luka, I was right that you are bright just like your name suggests.) So I am talking to human beings and not just ideas, that is good to hear! My name is Abdul-Basit, Basit is not my middle name and nor is Abdul my full first name, it is like a phrase, Abdul-Basit. It means Servant/Slave of the Expander/Opener/Heightener(one of the names/attributes of Allah/God). My last name Mukri, is a town in Iran, it means one who recites Quran well. It is curious to note that Luka, Kashikar and Mukri are linked with towns, probably at one time having relevancy but alas we live in a modern world. Hope to hear from you soon Light, Free and World/Lord. Others are also welcomed to share their names as well, in the spirit of sharing. Take Care.
Abdul Basit Mukri
Architecture and urban design
The problem with architects is that they see any sort of urban design proposal as a direct attack on their freedom to design. That is why they are not comfortable with urban planners or designers.

Urban designers, on the other hand (IMHO), are not approaching the problem of todays cities in the right manner. This is why we end up with cities which cannot compare to cities of the earlier eras.

Urban design tries to control the outcome and/or the formal aspects of individual buildings. This is not the ideal system of creating urban spaces. If followed to the letter, it results in monotonous environments; and more often than not, if not followed, results in utter chaos.

We need to look at building systems, or building characteristics as the basis of urban design. What is controlled is not the form or language, but the manner of making it. I know this would again raise the hackles of all architects. but then we need to realise that immense amount of variation is possible in any system.

I guess another analogy could be like this. One can either give a box and tell others to do whatever they want in the box but not violate the overall box. This sets the limits or range of the built form while keeping the internal design open to the architect. In fact, this is what is happening in big cities like New York, etc.

The other option is like a tree. One could set up the main trunk like an infrastructure and let the branches and leaves grow as they want. However, they will always have to connect to the trunk and that will form the basis of urban space. The form is not controlled but the organisation is.

It's just an idea and I would very much like comments on this.
Vishwanath Kashikar
Architecture and urban design
Dear all,

It seems I have a lot to respond too, so let me try to start my line of thoughts by linking to my last post, which is, interestingly, also a link with the past.

First of all, let us make some things clear; despite all the problems of modern cities, we must admit that their inhabitants today live better than ever before in history. This cannot be argued. And we also must admit that there are cities today, even large ones, which function superbly, despite the numerous problems they deal with.

We cannot look into past with a sort of desperate nostalgia, sighing how things were better then than they are now. Cities, urbanists and architects today face problems that their colleagues hundreds of years ago never dreamt of; there are six billions people on this planet today and the number is continuously growing. Great cities of the world today have more inhabitants than many conutries of the world. How is one suposed to solve urban problems when dealing with a population whose numbers equal that of a nation?

Thus, history cannot help us here with a direct advice, because such problems existed never before. Still, historia est magistra vitae, the best teacher there is, and though it rarely (or never) gives us a direct advice, it can give us ideas what and how to do.

As I mentioned in my last post, through thousand years city was defined as a settlement enclosed by walls. Thus, architecture and urbanism were integrated into one; urban aspects of cities, layouts of streets, squares, parks, etc., came out of the city's architecture, its houses, palaces, temples, fortifications; and vice versa.

Two hundred years ago, this changed. With the industrial revolution, world cities, one by one, tore down their walls and started spreading across the countryside. Yet at the same time the reversed process started to happen; the population of the countryside, attracted by the growing industries in urban areas, started to gravitate towards the cities in huge swarms, enclosing them from all sides. And thus the core of the problem we have up to this day was laid: cities freed themselves of their architectural walls, but as soon as they started to spread freely across the land, they were once again enclosed in circle of 'urban' walls; suburbs, squatter settlements, worker villages, etc.; low-quality, sub-standard settlements of the poor who gravitated towards the cities in huge numbers, searching for jobs and batter lives.

Now the core problem is that cities have lost their architectural identities; they were no longer urban settlements defined (and enclosed) by planed architeural elements, they have now became urban settlements enclosed, entangled and trapped in other urban settlements. The integration of architecture and urbanism was lost, and chaos started.

To continue with this rather simplistic, but IMHO valuable, revision of history, let us say that, now almost hundred years ago, Le Corbusier (here I go again with him!) recognised this core problem and tried to give a receipe how to solve it. He basically said that the process of freeing cities should continue. By raising buildings on pillars, having them 'float' slightly over the ground, we can allow the cities, now that they have lost their fortifications, to spread completly freely across the countryside. Streets are no longer needed; the very idea of a street, a corridor betwen two rows of buildings, is something which ultimately derives from a walled-in city where the space is always sparse. No walls, the buildings dance freely across the landscape, and the streets are not nessecary anymore; only wide pathways and avenues for motorised vehicles, while the pedestrians can walk over the green fields, parks and even forsets which continue to exist freely among the huge buildings.

Now, Corbusier's ideas were simple, yes, they were highly idealistic and formal, yes, they were even naive, yes, they were endlessly copied, yes, and they have many other bad and questionable aspects beside those that Ozgur mentioned. However, I believe that Corbusier was thinking in the right direction for the time that was coming, and which has now undoubtebly come. His ideas perhaps could not work, but that does not mean that they should be discarded at once; new ideas could be developed from them, following the same line of thinking.

The question here is similar to the 'bed and chair' disscusion. Why do we still need bed and chair? We are used to them, yes, they look charming, yes, they add certain aesthetic qualities to space, yes, but if they bother us more than we need them, why should we be afraid to simply kick them out?

Similar question raises in urbanism. Problems of modern-day overgrown cities are being solved with what are esentialy the tools derived from walled-in-cities thousand of years ago; streets, squares, parcels, etc. Yes, we are used to streets and squares, yes, they can have their charm, give a feel to urban space, but again, if we came in a position when such approach to urbanism creates more problems than it solves, perhaps we should not be afraid to try something new? Perhaps a new concept of urbanism that derives out of a new architecture should be devised. What would that exactly be or look alike, I have no idea.


I hope somebody can make some sense out of this lenghty post. I am writing directly as I am thinking, these are mostly my still-un-polished thoughts in cyber form.

Best regards,
Luka Trkanjec
Architecture and urban design
That sure was a comprehensively lengthy post.

One thing came to my mind immediately while reading the post -- and it has to do with Le Corbusier. I fully agree that Le Corbusier's visions should be looked at in the context of the age in which they were proposed. In such a given situation, I agree, that the congestion of all cities led him to propose what he did. There are some very vital points that we need to learn from him, and which I think are already being applied (although in piecemeal form) in many cities.

However, i firmly disagree in the universality of the proposal. The place where I come from has average temperatures between 35 and 45 degrees celsius and the most important urban feature is shade.

I see three ways of doing it -- growing trees, making covered walkways, letting buildings shade the space. Walkways are too expensive and limited, and so I reject such an idea. That leaves us with trees and buildings. Which is why I think the proportion of streets and their orientation are very important. When I talk of streets, I am not talking of vehicular highways but roads used by pedestrians as well. This is very different from North European and North American notions of a street. This is the main reason why Chandigarh fails, not because it is not a beautiful city. The reason is more mundane, it is impossible to walk in Chandigarh.
Vishwanath Kashikar
Architecture and urban design
Dear Vishwanath,

Excelent point. Haven't thought of that at all. It seems that, as much as I try to be open-minded and think globaly (whilst trying to act localy) there are always some underlying assumptions and prejudices I take for granted and forget to question and analyze. In this case it was the assumption that the whole world lives in mild climate of my neighboorhood. Thank you for remending me it is not so.

On the other hand, let us remember that there are cities with urban spaces which are throughly shaded, and are even in mild-climate zones, yet they turn into living hell during summer; take NY, for instance, where the enormous skyscrapers completly shade the streets from sunlight, yet the summer heats can reach killer temperatures due to thermal raditaion of all over-heated steel, glass and concrete.
Luka Trkanjec
Architecture and urban design
Dear Luka,

You are right in saying that the answers cannot be that simplistic. In fact, one of the problems of narrow streets formed by super-highrises is indirect radiation. I think in that context you are right in saying that mindlessly applying the notion of street to the modern day context can yield disastrous results which lose the best of both worlds.

I think one of the problems of architecture is its over empasis on visual content. When we look at any system we are more taken in by its visual characteristics of form, space and material than the characteristics or organisation of its making. This misplaced emphasis is glaringly visible when we try to juxtapose a given system (as in vernacular, or modern) into a new environment.

I hope I am making sense!
Vishwanath Kashikar
Architecture and urban design
Vishwaneth and Luka,

I am glad that you guys are thinking! It is the young that will make the change. Your notions are correct but need to be further developed. Who is going to listen to good ideas, if credentials are not there. We can all talk about solving problems and creating world peace but how serious are we? The world is a funny and very cruel place, good ideas and hopes are crushed in a second because of some persons will and fancy.

You guys make sense but I urge you both to seriously consider furthering your ideas and notions. Money, people you know, charisma and unwavering belief are serious factors in making your ideas a reality. Make it happen and you will soon realize that it is easier said than done. However with this all said, you have the support of one lonely Archnet, Discussion Forum, Architecture and urban design topic, from Canada participant, who believes in you. It's a start!

Keep the Faith,
Abdul Basit Mukri
Architecture and urban design
thanks a lot, abdul
Vishwanath Kashikar


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