COMPLEXITY AND CONGESTION
Milton Keynes analysis – The comparative method
“In the beginning (William) Penn intended to lay out Philadelphia as an agricultural village in which every purchaser of 500 acres (2km2) of planning land would be entitled to a houselot of 10 acres (40,500m2). Almost immediately Penn abandoned the scheme and determined to build a mercantile, not an agricultural town. …he specified that every house be seated in the middle of its lot, so that the city, “may be a green country town, which will never be burnt, and always be wholesome”…
Nine great streets ran from “(water)front to (water)front”, all crossed at right angles by twenty-one others. All were fifty feet (15m) wide, except for High and Broad streets, whose hundred-foot (30m) widths convinced newcomers that Philadelphia seemed destined for an urban greatness far beyond that of Boston or, indeed, most European cities.
Philadelphia prospered without a center. Instead of focusing on the great square it focused on nodes of activity.
In Philadelphia, and in Boston, New York and even in Charleston and Newport too, the tavern became the focus of many men’s daily activities. Even the sober (and frugal) Benjamin Franklin spent much of his time in the street corner taverns, the common designed hubs of Philadelphia life.”
‘National Design: Mercantile cities and the grid’ by John R. Stilgoe, 1982
from ‘American Architectural History: A Contemporary Reader’ ed. Keith Eggener, 2004
“However it was not until the development of London’s West End that the special pattern arose which Bloomsbury and St. James represent. Instead of first building along the existing arterial roads, complete town units were started between the roads…
The area west of the City of London was gradually divided by a large road network: Marylebone Road, Oxford Road and Piccadilly running east-west and a less clear system of north-south running arteries, which were not of the same grade as the great highways. When put together they form a large grid with a mesh size of about one kilometre. Inside these roads the individual town units came to lie…
On John Rocque’s Great Map of London. from 1746, the Grosvenor Estate is clearly seen as a small independent town built around the large Grosvenor Square, with stately streets of distinguished houses nearest the square and at the extreme edge less impressive streets with smaller houses. Inside the blocks are an ample number of mews for all the large houses On the map in the southernmost part of Mayfair, one sees a group of irregular buildings. They are obviously the remains of an old village (at Shepherd’s Market) which forms a sharp contrast to the planned Grosvenor Estate.”
‘London: The Unique City (Revised Edition)’, by Steen Eiler Rasmussen, 1982
NEW YORK CITY
“Manhattan is the 20th Century’s Rosetta Stone. Not only are large parts of its surface occupied by architectural mutations (Central Park, the Skyscraper), utopian fragments (Rockefeller Centre, the UN Building) and irrational phenomena (Radio City Music Hall), but in addition each block is covered with several layers of phantom architecture in the form of past occupancies, aborted projects and popular fantasies that provide alternative images to the New York that exists. Especially between 1890 and 1940 a new culture (the Machine Age) selected Manhattan as laboratory: a mythical island where the invention and testing of a metropolitan lifestyle
and its attendant architecture could be pursued as a collective experiment in which the entire city became a factory of man-made experience, where the real and the natural ceased to exist.
(Manhattan’s) performance and implications have been consistently ignored and even suppressed by the architectural profession….
Manhattanism is the one urbanistic ideology that has fed, from it conception, on the splendours and miseries of the metropolitan condition – hyper-density – without once losing faith in it as the basis for a desirable modern culture. Manhattan’s architecture is a paradigm for the exploitation of congestion.”
‘Delirious New York’ by Rem Koolhaas, 1978
“To make the case for a new but old direction in architecture, we shall use some perhaps indiscreet comparisons to show what we are for and what we are against and ultimately to justify our own architecture. When architects talk or write they philosophize almost solely to justify their own work, and this apologia will be no different.”
‘Learning from Las Vegas’ by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour, 1972
Comparative analysis of Milton Keynes with Philadelphia, London and New York will allow us to:
• Develop an understanding of the distinct (new?) form and space of Milton Keynes through comparison with the old and different.
• Develop an understanding of the varied relationships between a planned road grid and the subsequent architecture
• Consider the economical, social, political and cultural factors that influence a city’s architectural forms
• Practice new techniques for mapping the form and conveying the character of the city, through drawings and photographs
• Continue to catalogue examples of how the existing fabric has been adapted by its users
• Develop a shared language and collection of (architectural) experiences, as the basis for the studio’s imminent design conversations
A COMPARATIVE STUDY
Each student will be allocated a comparative area of approximately 1 kilometer square. The area will be selected on the basis of relevance to both your MK grid square and your architectural concerns.
(Note – those who have stated they are visiting New York with the studio will be allocated areas in New York. Those who are not will be allocated areas in UK.)
By now each of you have a series of site-specific hypotheses and general architectural concerns that have come out of your MK explorations. You will test, explore and develop these ideas, by comparing and contrasting the comparative site to your MK grid square. You will produce comparative drawings, photographs and images to illustrate both your explorations and your conclusions.
The following items describe the basic elements of your research. However, you should be pro-active in suggesting what additional explorations would best assist your project. Given the intentions of the project are comparative, we recommended you repeat any investigations you have undertaken in MK in your new square.
A few examples of such investigations by students in the studio include:
survey of formal and informal gathering spaces;
investigation of homes used as offices;
uses of monumental open spaces;
comparison of permanent and temporary retail;
recording the appropriation of houses for civic use – church, pub, convenience store
1. AN-OTHER ASTONISHING PLAN
As with the Nolli-inspired Project 2, construct a map that depicts your allotted neighbourhood in astonishing detail. It should be produced digitally and read well at a scale of 1:1250. It will be used as the basis for comparative studies. It will include the major roads bordering your neighbourhood and everything that lies within.
You shall use the available resources, including:
• Aerial photography – Plan (maps.google.co.uk)
- Birdsview (maps.live.com)
• Street photography – your own photographs
- Street View (maps.google.com)
• Local maps – libraries, discovery centres, visitor centres, development agencies
• Books on the neighbourhood
• Edina Digimap OS information – the base Ordnance Survey information
Note – it is very likely you will need to trace the plans from scaled aerial images for areas outside the scope of the UK’s Ordnance Survey information.
2. COMPARING THE LEXICON
Having established a visual lexicon for Milton Keynes, make a similar photographic record of your comparative area. Consider the content, composition and style of your photographs. What are you trying to capture and why? Practice taking ‘survey’ photographs, in the manner of the Bechers. Practice trying to capture the narrative and character of the area, in the manner of Crewdson.
Compare and contrast the images with similar images from MK.
For example, what are the front, side and back elevations of a typical home in MK like compared to the front, side and back elevations of a typical home in your comparative area?
Or what is the centre of your comparative area like compared to its MK equivalent?
How are they similar? How are they different? How can you photographs support each
3. JOURNAL OF ADAPTATIONS
As in MK your comparative area will demonstrate examples of citizens adapting their homes, gardens and surrounding areas to meet their needs and aspirations.
Search for and record examples of people adapting their surroundings. Use photographs and on-site sketches to capture your direct observations. Additional drawings may be required to further illustrate your adaptations and may coincide with your plans.
MINIMUM PROEJCT REQUIREMENTS
for Semester One Final Crit
1:1250 figure ground plan of your allotted comparative square, ‘an astonishing plan’, printed with true north at the top of the page
1:2500 figure ground plan of both your MK grid square and your allotted area, presented in a manner best suited to compare their similarities and differences
additional drawings that explore your hypotheses by comparing situations in MK with situations in your comparative area
pairs of photographs – one from your MK area, one from your comparative area – to show:
a) similarities between the two – minimum 5 pairs
b) differences between the two – minimum 5 pairs
a single framed, high quality photograph of the centre of your comparative area, minimum A3.
additional sketches, photographs and collages that compare and contrast the two areas.
minimum 5 photographs/sketches of examples of users adapting the fabric of your comparative area, printed 120x80mm (landscape)
25/11 10am Crit preparation presentation - 12pm Field trip brief issued, 2pm tutorials
All day – Y3 IDA tutorials with David Grandorge
28/11 ‘Presenting the story’ WORKSHOP
10 2/12 CROSS STUDIO CRITS
5/12 CROSS STUDIO CRITS
11 9/12 Depart for FIELD TRIP
X1 16/12 Return from FIELD TRIP
X2 w/b 22/12 Project 4 development
X3 w/b 29/12 Project 4 development
12 6/01 SEMESTER ONE FINAL CRIT
9/01 Workshop: Presenting Portfolios
ESSENTIAL READING REFERENCES
1. DELIRIOUS NEW YORK, Rem Koolhaas, Monacelli Press, 1978
Read in its entirety before or in NYC.
2. LONDON: THE UNIQUE CITY (Revised Edition), Steen Eiler Rasmussen, MIT Press, 1982
Read the final chapter – London New Town, Modern and Ancient – a comparison of London and MK
3. NATIONAL DESIGN: MERCANTILE CITIES AND THE GRID, John R. Stilgoe, 1982 from ‘AMERICAN ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY: A CONTEMPRARY READER, ed. Keith Eggener, 2004, pp25-38 and readable online on Google books
A key part of design is knowing what you like and why.
By experiencing more situations you will increase the potential for changing the things you like. By discussing it – with students, tutors or passersby – you will increase the potential for knowing why. The primary purpose of this architectural field trip is to experience buildings and their surroundings. We will be visiting a number of specific buildings of note, but will encounter far more – from the airport, to our hotel rooms, and everything in-between.
Look around you. Discuss anything that catches your eye. Capture it, in drawings, photographs or words. Record it in a travel journal or diary. This will provide an invaluable resource when designing, a useful reminder of your experiences and a lovely object to enjoy in future.