Tuesday 28 January 2014

The techniques of urban design- Designing Cities: Basics, Principles, Projects

Image 1. The book cover of ‘Designing Cities: Basics, Principles, Projects’
What is the basic knowledge for urban design? Which techniques are necessary for designing decent urban spaces? ‘Designing Cities: Basics, Principles, Projects’, written by German architect Leonhard Schenk, is navigating the answer of these questions.
The book is structured along three parts,
1) General principles of urban design
2) Practical techniques for designing cities with relative examples
3) Three sensible examples that are recently constructed and well evaluated   - Hamburg (Germany), Tubingen (Germany) and Belval (Luxemburg)
When people want to make an overview from the basic theory to the completed projects, it seems a well organised book to look through all parts. 
The author argues that the most urban design projects have been realised by competitions, and two factors should be incorporated to win the competitions. On the one hand, projects need to satisfy the demands of the client and the jury. On the other hand, the functionality, the design and the representation capacity of projects have to be promoted by themselves. This argument clearly indicates the direction of the book. Over 350 pages, the author illustrates in detail the systematic methods for creating urban spatial organisations and visually attractive designs.
What an interesting point of this book is the explaining principles of urban design step by step, particularly in the Chapter 1 and 2. For example, ‘the law of similarity’ describes that ‘elements that resemble one another in the form are more readily experienced as belonging together than elements are. In addition, similar elements result in more uniform groups than dissimilar ones’. (P.21, See image 3) The principles demonstrate not the characters of each element but the natures of the group as a corporate body of the elements. These rules are underestimated because too simple and too obvious. But, we could easily deep in troubles during the design process if we do not keep them in mind. And then, from the Chapter3, the author starts to explain the practical ways of urban design such as designing urban blocks, various grid structures, organising building lots, road systems, designing public space and representation skills. 

Thursday 16 January 2014

From Rhythmanalyst to Rhythmconductor- Rhythmanalysis: Space, Time and Everyday Life





Image 1. The book cover of ‘Rhythmanalysis: Space, Time and Everyday Life’

In the book, Rhythmanalysis: Space, Time and Everyday Life, French sociologist Henri Lefebvre suggests ‘Rhythm’ as an alternative tool to understand and analyse everyday urban life beyond visual recognition. He argues that we can examine the true nature of cities from the human body, the basic unit of urban life, to substantial urban structures through rhythms.
Invisible rhythms are generating, repeating and transforming in cities. Lefebvre categorizes types of rhythm, which deeply intervene the life and make a foundation of law, institution and culture, based on its characteristics. Among them, the author particularly insists to pay attention to two aspects of rhythms that Arrhythmia which is creating discordance between or among two or more rhythms, and Eurhythmia which is staying in the state of harmony and balance. He asserts that it is important to convert Arrhythmia in the city that causes inequality and injustice to Eurhythmia which sustains healthy urban condition.
‘Rhythmanlysist’ is a fresh idea from the book published in 1992. Rhythmanlysist hears sounds of the city and reveals hidden systems behind visual images with sensing and analysing the change of spatial aspects in timing. As a rhythmanlysist, Lefebvre investigates Mediterranean cities. He presents some insights that the rhythms of Mediterranean cities are derived from specific geographical and climate environments, and the rhythms have created different political system and exceptional cultural diversity in contrast to Atlantic cities. Physically, it leads the development of plazas and the importance of stairways which link sloping lands.
Rhythmanlysist could still be a valuable concept to understand complex urban situations. However, we are living in the digital era. As Mitchell (Mitchell, 1999) denoted, the rhythms of our ordinary life are changing by digital communication. Every day tremendous data, which are invisible and inaudible, are generating, and its flows push us into the massive ocean of heterogeneous rhythms. Therefore, new Rhythmanlysist in the digital age needs other capacities. Capturing the digital data in real time and synthesizing it should be essential requirements to create or maintain Eurhythmia. While the cities of the 20th century needed Rhythmanlysist, now it is the time of ‘Rhythmconductor’ who collects digital rhythms, reorganises its tempos-meters-articulations and resonates new contexts. We can easily find good examples of Rhythmconductor like below.

Image 2. London Public Bike share map by Oliver O’Brien.

Image 3. Analysis of Happiness on Twitter during 9th September 2008 to 31st August 2011.

Dodds PS,  Harris KD,  Kloumann IM,  Bliss CA,  Danforth CM  (2011) Temporal Patterns of Happiness and Information in a Global Social Network: Hedonometrics and Twitter. PLoS ONE 6(12)
This radical change of the rhythm gives an opportunity to redefine the scopes of each social group. Citizens collect and utilize the data by their mobile devices; furthermore, they solve complex urban problems by themselves. (Desouza and Bhagwatwar, 2012) The role of planners is challenging to make new rhythms by spreading effective information and stimulating civic participation using social media instead traditional managers’ role within mainstream planning structures. (Tayebi, 2013) Also, Scientists’ role is shifting. According to Wright (Wright, 2013), scientific researchers had focused to find reasons of urban problems until the last decade, however; their voices are getting stronger to solve problems and provide alternatives in the decision making process with geospatial data and geographical analysis.
You can find the detail of Lefebvre’s book from Google and Amazon.
Desouza, K C and Bhagwatwar, A, 2012, “Citizen Apps to Solve Complex Urban Problems” Journal of Urban Technology 19(3) 107–136.
Mitchell, W J, 1999 E-topia: “Urban life, Jim--but not as we know it” (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA).
Tayebi, A, 2013, “Planning activism: Using Social Media to claim marginalized citizens’ right to the city” Cities 32 88–93.
Wright, D, 2013, “Bridging the Gap Between Scientists and Policy Makers: Whither Geospatial? | Esri Insider” Esri Insider,

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Protest is nothing new

Yes, throughout the history of human being, protests have been here and there though fresh protest news cover on GoogleNews every day. [i] [ii] If we only count massive protests from 19th century, there were strong collective voices of French Revolution in 1848, Russian Revolution in 1917, 1968 protests in the world and Eastern Europe in 1989, and these were the generator of social changes each time.    
Not going too far away till the 19th century, more than 200 million protests have impacted on the life of people since 1979 despite ignoring hidden and unknown events.[iii] However, the number of protest has not been increasing so far based on the data of GDELT which is a research group to collect global political unrest data and provide daily report with geo-spatial data. It would mean that as growing the opportunities to see the news about protests, we might believe that protests have been common than in the past.[iv]
What is the key factor to force people into the street?
Recently, Bridge, Marsh and Sweeting (2013) argue the change of governing structure, from government to governance, is the essence of recent protests.[v] According to their opinion, it stimulates governments work together with private sectors and communities, so the boundary of different organisations is blurring far more than before. The changing forms of the organisations extend to the shifting role of citizens, emphasizing new forms of networks and accountability, and finally the nature of democracy. Amid this transition, people are more interested in direct citizenship, and we have been readily watching one form of direct democracy, protest.

Meanwhile, Castells (2012) insists that we need to consider the transformation of communication to understand current protests.
[vi] The development of internet technology facilitates that people can send messages many to many and share resources with horizontal-endless networks by themselves. On the internet, which is an autonomous space and no government control by Castells’ opinion, people try to change power relationships around them for ‘a better humanity’ when the relationships disrupt their life. When desires and goals of people are emerging in urban spaces beyond the internet, we could watch them such as Arab Spring and Occupy movements.

[ii] Manuel Castells, The City and the Grassroots: Cross-Cultural Theory of Urban Social Movements, illustrated edition (Hodder Arnold, 1983).
[iii] Joshua Keating, “What Can We Learn from the Last 200 Million Things That Happened in the World?,” Foreign Policy Blogs, April 12, 2013,
[iv] J Dana Stuster, “Mapped: Every Protest On The Planet Since 1979,” accessed January 8, 2014,
[v] Gary Bridge, Alex Marsh, and David Sweeting, “Reconfiguring the Local Public Realm,” Policy&Politics 41, no. 3 (n.d.): 305–309.
[vi] Manuel Castells, Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age (Polity Press, 2012).