Elements of Venice – Actor Network Theory applied to historical urban design?

Guilio Foscari’s book Element of Venice, while modelled on a process described a being similar to that of Rem Koolhaas’ at the Venice  Biennial , appears to me to be, in the vein of Bruno Labours Actor Network Theory (ANT), an  examination of the city’s history,  in urban design and architecture in terms that show how the city we as tourists see and take of granted as being “real” a 16th century authentic historical  city, is in fact an assemblage and pastiche, not much  different to the shopping centres so popular in the post-modern era of the nineties such as Canal Walk in Cape Town’s Century City.

I remember seeing how the famous Roman churches used faux marble paint effects above the dado rails and real marble below, where it could be touched,  these are the standard  “theming ” techniques of any restaurant or five star hotel establishments decorative chicanery , so denounced by the authentisicm   of contemporary architecture.

From ArchDaily by Guilia Foscari

The following is an excerpt from Giulia Foscari’s Elements of , a book that applies the dissection strategy  explored in “Elements of Architecture” at this year’s Venice Biennale. The book aims to demystify the notion that Venice has remained unchanged throughout its history and addresses contemporary issues along with strictly historical considerations. Read on for a preview of Elements of Venice, including Rem Koolhaas’ introduction to the book. 

FROM THE FAÇADE CHAPTER: Pedestrian Reform.

Courtesy of Lars Müller Publishers 
Courtesy of Lars Müller Publishers 

The new pedestrian streets cut into Venice’s ancient urban fabric (in which the old walkways connected the insulae without guaranteeing the same capillary reach of the current network) would have appeared with brutal evidence had the construction of new buildings along the sides of these streets not acted to “cauterise” the incisions made by the numerous demolitions. The pedestrian reform, put to motion in the early 19th century, was the result of a substantial shift in governance of the city.

New power structures, such as banking and insurance, and new public institutions, such as the chamber of commerce and the postal service – alternatives to those of the mercantile oligarchic Republic of the Serenissima – called for the construction of new representational buildings. New buildings were thus erected facing onto new streets, which, in turn, marked the discovery of “traffic” as a powerful tool of urban control in the hands of a “ruling class interested at once in political and commercial power”. At the expense of a traditionally compact urban fabric, the new government created, with public money, “urban voids” that were to become catalysts for representative buildings,commercial thoroughfares and modern infrastructure (such as electrical wiring).

Millions of tourists reaching San Marco from the Accademia or Rialto Bridge are thus deceived. The urban landscape they see as a striking testimony of ancient Venice is actually a particular collection of façades designed by 19th-century (academic and eclectic) architects, each responsible for designing a cluster of buildings along new circulation axes. Among these are projects by Giovan Battista Meduna near the ponte del Lovo in San Fantin, by the architect Pividor near Campo San Vio, by engineers Fuin and Balduin near San Moisé and on the Riva degli Schiavoni, by engineer Calzavara in the Frezzeria, and by Berchet and then Ludovico Cadorin at San Trovaso. All devoted to the notion of “revival” and “reusing of architectural styles” (Bellavitis, Romanelli, 1985) these architects could be grouped according to two separate tendencies: “the party using terracotta, emphasising on polychrome solutions with reference to late central-Italy and Lombard Renaissance style (practised by Cadorin, engineers Calzavara and Romano, for example); and the party referencing to severe Lombard architecture of the quattrocento, featuring Istrian stone and scarce use of ornament – Meduna, Fuin, Trevisanato” (Giandomenico Romanelli,1998).

There are no longer banks or institutions in the buildings flanking these pedestrian thoroughfares, which are now described as “Venetian bottlenecks”, given the density of persons found in these very streets at any given time. Fashion boutiques from the world’s most famous brands have taken their place. This is yet another example of how Venice has gone from being the capital of the mainland area of Padania, as it was still at the end of the 19th century, to being a capital of global tourism.

Reciprocal Contamination. Icons.

Our contemporary world, in which forms quickly dissolve into one other, is thirsty for icons. Each tourist – the common denominator of a mass phenomenon – is hunting for images, travelling the world without letting go of his camera, his smartphone, his iPad. Icons are not histories or phenomena. Thus a tourist does not know, is not interested in knowing, the history behind the city’s pedestrian reform, or distinguishing an ancient building from a 19th-century construction. He does not wonder whether tourism helps or harms the city. He is searching for images. One such icon could easily be the Doge’s Palace, or St Mark’s bell tower, or the Rialto Bridge. Even lesser things suffice: gondolas, winged lions, pigeons walking, horses held high in the air. Even masks. By propagating her symbols, Venice has reached the entire world and has become a commoditised image. Enterprising managers – perhaps better than intellectuals – have understood and seized the (conceptual) reality of this contamination, reproducing Venetian icons on a vast scale, as if they were masks of their own identity, to use on their casinos and on customers visiting shopping centres, the special fascination created by the allure of entering an imaginary world (a “fantastic mutation of normal reality”, as Thomas Mann would write in Death in Venice) and leaving – if for a while – the at times oppressive contingency of reality.

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Pop Cultitecture: The Genius of David Byrne

Combining two obsessions:  music and archi-culture David Byrne sits in the middle as a self appointed commentator on our lives and lifetimes, we have heard of our paranoia ash our obsessive lives since the seventies with Talking Heads, I remember “Life during Wartime”as especially poignant and his  collaborations with Brain Eno, “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” spoke mysteriously of a strange in-between world and predated the mix-uped shift to Remix. In his Bicycle Diaries he explored a first person view of urbanism and in How Music Really Works gave us an insiders view of music and the music industry now  in Archinect Julia Ingalls sets forth..

"It's a multi-purpose shape – a box." Byrne as "The Deadpan Docent" in "True Stories".

“It’s a multi-purpose shape – a box.” Byrne as “The Deadpan Docent” in “True Stories”.

Unlike those architects who long to be thought of as artists, Byrne is an artist who loves to thinks about architecture. Like the deadpan docent of the infrastructural realm, David Byrne’s work has inadvertently helped make architecture into a pop culture staple. While his commentary may not be mind-blowing to an architect, the method of his commentary – the diversity and size of his audience, the innovative visual and aural techniques in which he conveys highly abstract concepts – is a major contribution to architectural discourse.

Very few popular songwriters have as many instantly hummable, building-oriented tunes in their catalogues as David Byrne. It’s way beyond “Burning Down the House”; take a closer look at the entirety of Byrne’s 38-year output, working with Talking Heads, Brian Eno or any of a dozen other musical collaborators. Instead of writing love songs that focus on interpersonal rapture, Byrne tends to frame his romanticism in potentially isolating structures: dry ice factories, wartime brownstones, shotgun shacks. Byrne’s lyricism is usually never content to celebrate love between people; it’s a celebration of love between people and structures. Notably, the way structures and spaces influence relationships isn’t a tract in an out-of-print textbook but a danceable groove.

David with bike and organ at Aria, Minneapolis, MN 2012. Image via davidbyrne.com.

David with bike and organ at Aria, Minneapolis, MN 2012. Image via davidbyrne.com.

In tracks “Don’t Worry About the Government”, “Cities”, and “Strange Overtones”, Byrne explores the buoyant (if misguided) expansionist mindset of late capitalism, the suburban isolation resulting from utopian mid-century urban planning, and the Great Recession-era social retrenching. “Don’t Worry About the Government” places the joy of work and life firmly in the hands of expanding infrastructure; Byrne makes comparisons between civil servants and his loved ones, although his main focus is the inherent power of the building itself: “my building has every convenience / its gonna make life easy for me.”

My building has every convenience

It’s gonna make life easy for me

It’s gonna be easy to get things done

I will relax alone with my loved ones

– Don’t Worry About the Government, Talking Heads, Talking Heads: 77 (1977)

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HOW TO STUDY PUBLIC LIFE -Jan Gehl & Birgitte Svarre

Looks like another great manual form the city life specialist Gehl Architects

How-To-Study-Public-Life-Cover2

“For decades, the public space, public life studies developed by Jan Gehl and his team have been a great inspiration for professionals, academics and city planners in all parts of the world. Now their secret tools are available to everyone in “How to Study Public Life”. It is just a matter now of getting out there and putting them to use.”

— Peter Newman, Professor of Sustainability,
Curtin University, Australia
 

How do we accommodate a growing urban population in a way that is sustainable, equitable, and inviting? This question is becoming increasingly urgent to answer as we face diminishing fossil-fuel resources and the effects of a changing climate while global cities continue to compete to be the most vibrant centers of culture, knowledge, and finance.

Jan Gehl has been examining this question since the 1960s, when few urban designers or planners were thinking about designing cities for people. But given the unpredictable, complex and ephemeral nature of life in cities, how can we best design public infrastructure—vital to cities for getting from place to place, or staying in place—for human use? Studying city life and understanding the factors that encourage or discourage use is the key to designing inviting public space.

In “How to Study Public Life” Jan Gehl and Birgitte Svarre draw from their combined experience of over 50 years to provide a history of public?life study as well as methods and tools necessary to recapture city life as an important planning dimension.

This type of systematic study began in earnest in the 1960s, when several researchers and journalists on different continents criticized urban planning for having forgotten life in the city. City life studies provide knowledge about human behaviour in the built environment in an attempt to put it on an equal footing with knowledge about urban elements such as buildings and transport systems. Studies can be used as input in the decision?making process, as part of overall planning, or in designing individual projects such as streets, squares or parks. The original goal is still the goal today: to recapture city life as an important planning dimension. Anyone interested in improving city life will find inspiration, tools, and examples in this invaluable guide.

How-to-Study-Public-Life-Spread2

 

Read Reviews Here:

Experiencing Streets, Parks, and Plazas: A Review for “How to Study Public Life”

Book Talk and Review: How to Study Public Life

Oculus Book Review: “How to Study Public Life” by Jan Gehl and Birgitte Svarre

Ecology and Design: Parallel Genealogies

In this essay in Design Observer, adapted from “Ecology and Design: Parallel Genealogies” in  Projective Ecologies, edited by Chris Reed and Nina-Marie Lister, to be published this month by Actar and the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the authors revue the changing values attached to the term ‘ecology’, its history and impact on landscape and urban design and point to how these might be the focus of applied research and practice in the future.


Andrea Hansen, Tokyo Bay Marine Fields, 2009. Click image to enlarge.

The past two decades have witnessed a resurgence of ecological ideas and ecological thinking in discussions of urbanism, society, culture and design. In science, the field of ecology has moved away from classical determinism and a reductionist Newtonian concern with stability, certainty and order, in favor of more contemporary understandings of dynamic systemic change and the related phenomena of adaptability, resilience and flexibility. Increasingly these concepts are seen as useful heuristics for decision-making in many fields, and as models or metaphors for cultural production, particularly in the design arts. This places landscape architecture in a unique disciplinary and practical space — informed by ecological knowledge as an applied science, as a construct for managing change, and as a model of cultural production or design. 

Ecology is, by definition, a transdisciplinary science focused on the relationship between living organisms and their environments. A relatively new science, its modern roots emerged in the early 20th century with the work of Frederic Clements and Henry Gleason, American botanists who studied the interactions between plant communities, and Sir Arthur Tansley, a British botanist and zoologist whose research on the interactions between plant and animal communities and the environment led him to coin the term “ecosystem” in 1935. [1] The interdisciplinary work of these pioneers prompted the development of models of ecological succession that dominated plant biology during the early 20th century and became the basis for the new integrated science of plants, animals and the environment eventually known as ecosystem ecology. 

The implications of this developing work were not limited to the natural sciences; in fact, popularization of these emerging world views was manifest in more widely read writings in the humanities and reverberated in other fields as well, including large-scale project management, governance and planning. Complex adaptive systems thinking made its way into the design arts as landscape was being rediscovered as both model and medium for design, and the environmental movement was becoming mainstream. 

Today “ecology” has been co-opted to refer to almost any set of generalized ideas about environment or process, rendering the term essentially meaningless. To recover a critical sense of ecology as a specific set of ideas that can continue to inform design thinking and practice, we start by identifying three important and parallel genealogies of ecology: in the natural sciences, the humanities and design.

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Rumble in the Urban Jungle – Michael Sorkin vs. “New” Urban-ists & “Landscape Urban”-isms

Heated debate in the riposte’s & the  responses ( read the comments in the original- see link below) from the Architectural Record – Like Michael Sorkin says here – it seems  a pointless debate – one that is particularly irrelevant here in the global South – we can’t really see whats the “new” in New Urbanism or what is really different in the Landscape Urbanism from what Landscape Architects here have always done – stewarded the environment on which we all depend – and try to get their clients to do what’s best for all the actor-networks involved in the city, human & non-humann – wealthy as well as the disenfranchised- not just themselves .

August 2013

A recent book by New Urbanist authors revives an old battle with Landscape Urbanism.

By Michael Sorkin

The High Line in New York, designed by James Corner Field Operations with Diller Scofidio + Renfro, is criticized by Andres Duany for being too expensive and over-designed.
Photo © Iwan Baan
The High Line in New York, designed by James Corner Field Operations with Diller Scofidio + Renfro, is criticized by Andres Duany for being too expensive and over-designed.

It’s hard to keep up with the musical deck chairs in the disciplines these days. The boundaries of architecture, city planning, urban design, landscape architecture, sustainability, computation, and other fields are shifting like crazy, and one result is endless hybridization–green urbanism begets landscape urbanism, which begets ecological urbanism, which begets agrarian urbanism–each “ism” claiming to have gotten things in just the right balance. While this discussion of the possible weighting and bounding of design’s expanded field does keep the juices flowing, it also maintains the fiction that there are still three fixed territories–buildings, cities, and landscapes–that must constantly negotiate their alignment.

Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, one of the leading firms in the New Urbanism movement, designed a master plan in 2012 for Costa Verbena in Brazil. The designers say the plan respects the site's topography and its sensitive ecosystems, while applying a traditional street grid.
Image courtesy DPZ & Company
Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, one of the leading firms in the New Urbanism movement, designed a master plan in 2012 for Costa Verbena in Brazil. The designers say the plan respects the site’s topography and its sensitive ecosystems, while applying a traditional street grid.

Project for Public Spaces | Book Review: Handmade Urbanism: From Community Initiatives to Participatory Models

See on Scoop.itUrban Choreography

“[Citizen-led] urban renewal instruments might take an important role,” opines Istanbul-based planner Erhan Demirdizen in the new book Handmade Urbanism: From Community Initiatives to Participatory Models, “but only if the local authorities can turn these applications into local development programs.” In other words, policymakers need to figure out better ways to facilitate and channel the energy of engaged citizens, in order for their cities to reach their full potential.

 

Donovan Gillman‘s insight:

Recently attended a talk by PPS’s Fred Kent and was inspired by his methods  working with the people on the ground who know what is going on and doing "LIghter, Quicker Cheaper" to get things done, not waiting for for officials who he calls the "NO" people and designers who aim to imoratlize themselves and put buildings before people.

See on www.pps.org

Two books on Geodesign

See on Scoop.itUrban Choreography

 
In recent years, Esri, publishers of the ArcGIS suite of software, has been promoting a concept called geodesign in an attempt to meld the geographic discip…

Donovan Gillman‘s insight:

Is Geodesign a recipe or methodology for User CEntred or Co-Design? Some of it might be – some might just be sophisticated marketing…

See on land8.com

Cityscapes #3 – The Smart City?

Cityscapes 3

Date: March 27, 2013 Time: 18:00pm-19:00pm
Venue: The Book Lounge, 71 Roeland Street, Cnr Buitenkant & Roeland Street, Cape Town

The latest instalment of Cityscapes, the hybrid current affairs and culture magazine devoted to “re-thinking urban things”, will be launched in Cape Town on 27 March 2013. Featuring interviews with Lagos governor Babatunde Fashola and novelist Imraan Coovadia, the bumper 140-page third issues has as its thematic focus the “smart city”.

This fuzzily defined term speaks to the increasing use of networked information and communications technologies in ordering of large-scale urban phenomenon. The magazine visits Rio de Janeiro to find out what this means practically. “Technology gives you a faster response,” explains Dario Bizzo Marques, a technology systems coordinator at Rio’s $14-million integrated city management centre, home to Latin America’s largest surveillance screen.

“We increasingly share the space and time of cities with semi-autonomous agents of a nonhuman, indeed non-biological, nature, from drones to algorithms,” offers Adam Greenfield in his provocative 100-point manifesto appearing in Cityscapes and addressing the pervasive use of tech-savvy urban management solutions. Noted urban theorist Ash Amin, in a cornerstone 5000-word interview with Matthew Gandy, is also wary of the ideological implications of reducing city management to the top-down marshalling of abstract data.

“The positivist legacy has been rekindled in the ‘big data’ approach to the city,” offers Amin. “Its conceit is to think that the availability of sophisticated mathematical models able to work large data in nuanced ways, allows the city to be visualised and understood in all its complexities and evolving changes.”

Also included in the latest issue of Cityscapes: an intimate account of living in the Nairobi slum of Kibera; a description of Sao Paulo’s oppositional graffiti cultures; a fond appraisal of the career of legendary Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray; a look at Kigali’s ambitious master plan; a profile of artist Theaster Gates; a speculation on the city without the automobile; and a photo essay describing life in Kowloon, the famous Hong Kong tenement slum demolished in the early 1990s.

About Cityscapes: Launched in 2011 and jointly edited by Sean O’Toole and Tau Tavengwa, in collaboration with Professor Edgar Pieterse, Cityscapes offers a disparate blend of in-depth interviews, enquiring journalism, polemical editorialising and illustration rich content to document and theorise urban experience in the global south

I this the future of urban planning – I hope not – I wonder of the little people can be polled as to their likes and dislikes and how would you aggregate these “collective”s views – what room is there for politics?

Things I grab, motley collection

See on Scoop.itThings I Grab (Here and There): THgsIGrbHT

Josh Dzieza plays the latest version with Stone Librande, its lead designer, and Jeff Speck, the author of ‘Walkable City.’

plerudulier‘s insight:

You’ll notice the difference right away—unlike previous versions of the hit computer game, this one is actually full of tiny citizens. They leave their tiny homes every morning and walk (or drive or take a bus) to power plants or factories, where tiny crates are made and picked up by trucks driven by other tiny people, then finally dropped off at stores where the Lilliputian populace shops.

Given this manic attention to municipal minutiae, it may come as a surprise that the series isn’t universally beloved in the urban-planning community. After all, this is where many of today’s youngest planners first experienced the thrills of zoning and city budgets. (New Yorker writer John Seabrook has written that…

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Landscape Performance Research: The Economics of Change

From Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) By Jason Twill, LEED AP and Stuart Cowan, PhD

The built environment and building industry together account for about 50% of U.S carbon emissions and contribute to a web of significant, interconnected problems: climate change, persistent toxins in the environment, dwindling supplies of potable water, flooding, ocean acidification, habitat loss and more. Over the past decade, great strides have been made in terms of energy efficiency, water and waste consumption, and sustainable materials, and a critical mass of innovative professionals has emerged.

Yet a major barrier to the broad adoption of advanced green building practices is our 20th century real estate financial system. Current lending approaches, appraisal protocols, and valuation models do not reflect the true externalized costs of doing “business as usual” nor do they fully capture the additional environmental and social benefits created by building green. These barriers affect the perceived financial viability of environmentally sound projects and slow innovation and market growth. To fully realize true sustainability, a shift in assessing and evaluating real estate investment is urgently needed.

The Economics of Change is a groundbreaking effort to do just that.

The overarching goal of The Economics of Change is to shift mainstream real estate practices to document the full value of a built environment that is compatible with healthy, natural systems. Correcting real estate incentives and improving financial models will shift investment toward buildings and infrastructures that are financially rewarding, resilient, socially just and economically restorative.

eoc-shiftA project’s integrated value includes its traditional market value AND the environmental and social value it provides. This research seeks to shift the investment barrier to the right through recognition of integrated value, potentially unlocking a trillion dollars of investment towards restorative building.

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