Cities as movement economies

There are 2 great anomalies in our current way of seeing cities. The first is the problem of multi-functionality. Every aspect of the spatial and physical configuration of the city form seems to have to work in many different ways- climatically, socially, economically, aesthetically and so on- with an additional difference that form changes only slowly while function changes rapidly.

The second is the part- whole problem, the place-city problem, the fact that in most cities made up of parts with a strong sense of local place it is almost impossible to make a clear morphological distinction between one part and another. At least not at a level at which it could inform design.

All functions relate to the form of the city. There are 2 generic functional factors. How we individuals find the city intelligible and how we move around it. These generic factors are so powerful that all other aspects of function pass through them and influence the urban form through them.

How we organize space into configuration is the key both to the forms of the city and how human beings function in cities.

The fundamental co-relates to the spatial configuration is movement. Well functioning cities can therefore be thought of as movement economies."

Towns, as physical objects, are clearly specialized forms of spatial engineering which permit large number of people to live in dense concentrations without getting on each others nerves and minimize the effort and energy needed for face to face contact with each other and with the providers of needs.

Towns were made functionally possible by a transformation in the way energy through society.

Towns were made possible socially by the urban grid

 The fundamental city

There are objections to the idea that urban forms evolve according to a general idea. The most obvious is that cities are individuals, and that this is because the forms they take are influenced by factors which are quite specific to the time and place in which they grow- local topographical factors such as harbours, rivers and hills, particularly historical events such as trading developments, population movements and conquests and by pre-existing contextual conditions such as route intersections and existence of exploitable resources.

Each type of influence might be expected to have generally similar effects on urban form, but taken together it is highly unlikely that any 2 cities would repeat the same grouping or sequencing of influences. These factors, then inspite of suggesting basis for comparison, tend to make each city unique. The spatial and physical development of cities is held to be a reflection of the social, economic and cultural processes, which provide the reasons for their existence. Differences in these processes are likely to give to differences in type between cities.

Seen in one way, cities are individuals seen in another, they seem to be types.  The influence of spatial laws on cities separates not at a level of the individuality of the city, nor on the typology of the city, but at the deeper level of what all-individual cities and types of city have in common, that is, what, separately, makes a city a city.

Cities as they grow tend to fill out in all directions to form more or less compact shapes, even in cases where they are linear in the early stages. Intelligibility and functionality are the keys to generic function. When settlements are small they can take a great variety of forms. As cities become large these peculiarities tend to be eliminated and grids become more like each other in certain ways.

Main lines of urban evolution-

" Strange cities exist, and for a while even grow quite large, but they are essentially dead ends in urban evolution. Because they operate at a very deep level and govern the common structure of cities, it might be thought that the fundamental city is too generalized to be of interest.

The laws of emergence operate as paradoxes. There are two such paradoxes- the first called paradox of centrality and the second the paradox of visibility.

In a circular, that is the most probable aggregate, integration runs from centre to edge, with the greatest integration at the centre and least at the edge. This prioritizes the centre from the point of view of known effects of integration on the functioning of the two spatial systems.

All this is when we consider the urban system on its own in terms of its interior relations.

As soon as we consider its external relations, say to other settlements in the region, the centre to edge distribution of integration no longer applies. Maximizing internal integration also maximizes external segregation. This is the "paradox of centrality."

Conversely if we move from a circular form towards the most linear form, that is a single line of cells (the least probable shape in a growing aggregate), then we find the most linear form, which is the least integrated in itself, is the most integrated to the outside or to the other systems in the region.

It happens so since each of its constituent cells is by definition directly adjacent to the space outside the form.

Growing urban systems must respond to the paradox of centrality because it has the simple consequence that if you try to maximize internal integration then you lose external integration and vice versa and urban forms need both internal and external integration.
         
Urban form
First it must create external integration for the sake of relations to the outside world, as well as internal integration, for the sake of relations amongst locations within.

It must pursue compactness and linearity, former for the sake of trip efficiency and the latter for the sake of visibility and intelligibility.

How does one resolve these paradoxes? Structured grid, whether deformed or interrupted, give the answer. A structured grid is one in which integration and intelligibility are arranged in a patter of some kind, which supports functionality and intelligibility. Essentially lines and areas are prioritized for integration and intelligibility to varying degrees in order to create a system of differentiation, and it is this differentiation that we call structure in the system.

 " Things have only their own properties space has all possible properties."

When we intervene in space by the placing of physical objects we do not create spatial structure, but eliminate it.

To place an object in space means that certain lines of visibility and movement which were previously available are no longer available. Any open space is a place in which no possibilities have been eliminated and every open space is continually structured and restructured by the human activity that takes place in it.

Local order means constant relations between one block and its neighbors. The reason why we find urban systems invariably display local as well as global order is that without local order there is an interdeterminancy in the emergent structure.

The effect of globalizing rules was that certain key properties, such as axial depth from the outside to the heart of the settlement tended to remain fairly constant. Analysis then showed that the effect of these rules was to maintain both the intelligibility and the functionality of the settlement, to maintain a strong between the different parts of the settlement and between the settlement and the outside world.

4 principles in settlement growth-

1)     centrality

2)     Extension- the longer the line on which we define centrality the greater the depth gain from the block ad vice versa for space.

3)     Contiguity-continuous blocks create more depth gain

4)     Linearity- linearly arranged continuous blocks create more depth gain.

Several factors that affect the pattern and form of a city-

First site or location with respect to its environment

Second the people, culture and spirit

Third the function the city has to perform- political, religious, industrial or commercial.

Burgeoning metropolises and urban mega-centers are increasingly being viewed as an inevitable part of developmental growth, particularly in third world countries with their massive problems of rural deprivation ad population growth today. Growth regions in an appropriate urbanization policy frame could possibly provide a viable and more acceptable global strategy for urban development in this context. However, as already seen, this would require a sea change of perceptions in the field of urban and regional planning with corresponding responses in the fields of architecture and urban design.

Architecture today is a state of flux and transition. The modern architectural movement has of late lost much of its initial momentum and there is a growing sense of disillusion and disenchantment with its basic formulations and tenets. Sterile quests for novelty and sensation have at times run aground on out of place expressionism and facile interpretations of vernacular and period vocabularies with chaotic implications in the urban context.

A growing concern for a generation of the built environment and a global resurgence of human value systems could perhaps provide the necessary inputs for a modern renaissance in architecture and urban design. ‘Contextual’ architectural innovation on an extended scale could also take on the challenge of an emerging role in recasting and regeneration of the built form orders of yesterday, today and tomorrow and thus fulfil a destiny in the design of human sentiments. 

PROCEED TO "DELHI-CITY IN CONFLICT"                               RETURN TO "ARCHITECTURE AND IDENTITY"

RETURN TO HOMEPAGE           HOUSING SECTOR         POST 1947 BUILDINGS PART1      PART2