- Where are we????
Of the Superstar Urban Plan
By J.S. MARCUS
July 25, 2008
Kartal, a postwar industrial area amid Istanbul's Asian sprawl, is the city's rust belt. Once home to nearly 100 factories, making everything from cement to ceramics, the area is now dominated by an abandoned stone quarry and scattered concrete apartment blocks, home to thousands of the city's recent arrivals from rural Anatolia.
Zaha Hadid Architechts
Zaha Hadid's master plan for the Kartal area of Istanbul, with the Sea of Marmara at the top of the image.
During a recent visit to a residential area, squashed between auto workshops and a mosque, the peace of a warm afternoon was broken by the rattle of a hand-pulled wooden cart and the cries of the cart's owner announcing to the neighborhood that he had come to buy scrap metal.
The future will come rushing in to Kartal next year, when ground is expected to be broken on one of the world's biggest urban-renewal projects. As mapped out by Zaha Hadid, the London-based, Iraqi-born Pritzker Prize-winning architect, Kartal will be redeveloped according to a 555-hectare master plan that includes soaring skyscrapers, swerving thoroughfares and newly designed public spaces where 100,000 people will live and work and many more will come for shopping and entertainment.
The all-encompassing plan is the latest example in a new trend in urban development that has taken hold in the past decade, in which a visionary designer creates a detailed concept for an entire neighborhood. While individual buildings aren't designed, the overall shape and style of the structures are guided by the master planner.
CITY PLANNING THROUGH HISTORY
Urban planning as a discipline developed only in the 20th century, but ideas about organizing communities are as old as civilization. See some important points in the development of cities: Page One | Page Two.
In the past, with a few notable exceptions, urban planners have been concerned with organizing space and infrastructure, while architects, separately, have created buildings. For the most part, cities and neighborhoods developed organically over time. Today, governments and private developers are turning to name-brand architects to create plans for both space and structures, elaborate designs that can be marketed as the creative expression of an artist.
"We are seeing an emergence of a new industry," says Dennis Frenchman, director of the city design and development program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's urban-studies department. "It's not real-estate development; it's not architecture; it's not city planning. All I can do is name it 'the city-building industry.' "
And a name-brand architect can make the product sellable. "It's just like teapots," he says.
JTC Corporation/one-north Devt Group
Part of the development under Zaha Hadid's master plan for One-North in Singapore.
On a 172-hectare artificial island off Dubai, architect Rem Koolhaas is designing Waterfront City, which plans a dense grid of Manhattan-like skyscrapers, punctuated by a mirrored globe-shaped building and a spiraling tower. About 400,000 people will live and work in the area; it's part of a larger development that will eventually be home to 1.5 million people. Landworks have begun; building is expected to take decades.
In his 2006 plan to rebuild a 100-hectare section of Riga's port, which hasn't broken ground yet, the architect, founder of the OMA firm in Rotterdam, includes a staggered skyline of midrise buildings and a forest-like landscape created by Dutch designer Petra Blaisse.
Studio Daniel Libeskind
Daniel Libeskind's layout for Fiera Milano
Architect Daniel Libeskind is designing the downtown of Orestad, a five-kilometer-long urban area south of Copenhagen. The 19-hectare area will include two concave 18-story towers, which will dominate the main square and will be visible from the center of Copenhagen, and low-rise buildings with landscaped roofs. Commissioned in 2006, the master plan is expected to take about a decade to complete.
The architect also includes landscaped roofs and terraces in his Fiera Milano project, which is redeveloping 43 hectares of Milan's old fairgrounds. A mix of skyscrapers and low-rise buildings will provide housing, a contemporary-art museum, office space and shops arranged around a public park. The project, for which Ms. Hadid is designing an office tower and residential buildings, is scheduled to be completed in 2014.
Studio Daniel Libeskind
Fiera Milano's planned museum
In Segovia, architect David Chipperfield won a competition in March to create a plan for a new art and technology quarter. The plan, which covers an area of 12 hectares and includes a museum, offices, government buildings and public spaces, will bring a modernist flair to the city's medieval setting.
Ms. Hadid has experience in the city-building industry. In 2001, her studio designed the master plan for One-North in Singapore, a 200-hectare residential and science campus. The development, which is already partially built, is united by an undulating roofscape, with the same fluid lines found in Ms. Hadid's individual buildings and furniture.
In Bilbao, meanwhile, she is redeveloping 60 hectares of a peninsula in the river, a former industrial site. The Zorrozaurre plan will turn the land into an island, with angled buildings for housing and offices following the curve of the river.
The question "How can I differentiate my city?" has become the driving force in urban planning, Mr. Frenchman says. It's an attempt by local politicians and developers to compete for attention and resources in a globalized world.
Studio Daniel Libeskind
Daniel Libeskind's plan for a Copenhagen neighborhood
"Zaha's international standing played a role" in the judges' decision to pick her plan, says Bülent Eczacibasi, chairman of Eczacibasi Holding, the largest landholder in the Kartal area. He says both Ms. Hadid's reputation and the quality of the project's design will "create high investor interest."
Name-brand master plans are "an entrepreneurial tool" that are key to getting these large projects built, says Reinier de Graaf, an OMA partner working with Mr. Koolhaas on the Riga and Waterfront City projects. Urban planning is now "a very weird mixture of marketing and urbanism," he says.
Mr. Chipperfield agrees. "It's easier to know about architects than architecture," he says. "A banker won't know about architecture but will know that 'Zaha Hadid' or 'Rem Koolhaas' is a brand."
Major changes in politics and development have fostered the trend -- the fall of communism, the diversification of Middle Eastern economies, and the urgent need to build or rebuild cities in booming regions of Asia.
David Chipperfield Architects
David Chipperfield's plan for a new art and technology quarter in Segovia
The architecture business, meanwhile, has become more global. Until recently, even well-established architects tended to work nationally. And as computer technology allows for ever-more elaborate design methods, the design of cities has become the latest frontier.
Mr. Frenchman says that in the past, urban planning was primarily concerned with the creation of an urban infrastructure, like roads and the sites of major buildings, but that today, aesthetic concerns, like the visual impact of all the structures in an urban area, have become dominant.
"Pierre Charles L'Enfant didn't design buildings," he says of the man who laid out the new city of Washington in 1791. His plan, considered one of the most successful in history, resembled a map -- showing streets and empty lots. Even so, by designing the great views where monuments should go, "he gave a vision," Mr. Frenchman says.
Rem Koolhaas's plan for Waterfront City, an artificial island in Dubai
"Now, what we call 'starchitects' are being asked to come up with a vision of what a city should look like and how its growth should occur," says urban theorist Richard Sennett, professor of sociology at New York University. "Being trained to develop unusual or extraordinary buildings is not the best preparation you can have."
A new way of thinking about urban planning dates back to the 1920s. Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier, who wanted to bring the efficiency and glory of the Machine Age to bear on the landscape, created the design for what he called a Contemporary City, made up of a series of 60-story glass-and-steel skyscrapers. He later suggested tearing down much of the center of Paris and building his towers.
The plan, which was theoretical and not meant to be implemented, reflected the era's optimism about technology, but it anticipated the postwar building spree of tower blocks and concrete slabs, now usually considered to be urban blights. But the idea's radical, comprehensive vision continues to inspire designers. The plan represents Le Corbusier's belief that "one man can give form to a city," says Jean-Louis Cohen, a Le Corbusier scholar at NYU.
The Arabianranta development in Helsinki, which emphasizes digital technology as much as architectural structures
Today, master plans are seen as a way to revive or repurpose old sections of cities, such as Mr. Koolhaas's 1994 master plan for Lille that developed an urban quarter around the new Eurostar station.
This new wave of master plans combines aesthetic experimentation with recent ideas in urban planning. "Master plans are changing so rapidly," says Mr. Libeskind, who credits the current trend with what he calls "a renaissance of cities."
For both Mr. Libeskind and Ms. Hadid, the cultivation of street life is key. Ms. Hadid says a good master plan should "animate the ground." She says she hopes to "add or scoop out a civic space around every tower or building" in Kartal.
The Arabianranta development
The plan, which will affect the industrial core of the Kartal district, involves constructing three clusters of curvaceous skyscrapers to serve as business and recreation centers, along with smaller residential buildings. The project is expected to continue for decades.
"It started like a net," Ms. Hadid says of her concept for the development, which pieces together plots belonging to a range of landowners, including several of Turkey's largest companies.
Ms. Hadid and her studio have layered the plan with buildings of radically different heights, echoing the topographical variety of Istanbul itself. Though other architects will build most of the structures, the master plan will determine key aspects of the development, from the street grid to plot size to the dimensions of many buildings. Ms. Hadid's architects refer to the project's sculpted skyline, and Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbas says he is fond of the expected "silhouette" that will be visible from cruise ships sailing by on the Sea of Marmara.
The current plan doesn't specifically address what will happen to the 30,000 people who now live in the area, but the Istanbul planning agency says that the residential pockets will be phased in over time and that the hoped-for rising property values will offer residents choices.
Ms. Hadid says the plan is flexible and can be implemented in phases -- since a master plan can take decades to realize, changing economic and political conditions can dramatically affect its outcome. "You can build bits of it or all of it," she says. "But it still works."
But Mr. Frenchman says master plans need more conceptual flexibility along with architectural flexibility. He says the Internet is breaking down distinctions between residential, commercial and industrial spaces. He says current plans by Ms. Hadid, Mr. Koolhaas and Mr. Libeskind still reflect 20th-century distinctions between the home and the workplace -- a key aspect of the Corbusian model from the 1920s. He says these divisions are becoming outmoded in the Internet age -- in a world where people work at home and shop online, designations like a "business district" or "downtown" don't apply.
An example of a new approach to urban planning, Mr. Frenchman says, is the Arabianranta development in Helsinki, which emphasizes digital technology as much as architectural structures. It is a "smart city," where personal and professional relationships are fostered online. The 85-hectare development, expected to be finished in 2012, conceives of interconnectivity as a new form of public space; the 3,500 dwellings are networked so residents can share information. Computer technology is treated as public infrastructure, like water or electricity.
"Technology can help us rethink how cities function," Mr. Frenchman says.
Because of their unified vision, master plans have the potential to create great beauty. But for the same reason, they risk provoking strongly negative reactions. The city of Brasilia, built in the 1950s according to a master plan by Lúcio Costa, is hated for its barren public spaces, even though individual buildings by Oscar Niemeyer are admired. Berlin's Potsdamer Platz, redeveloped under a master plan by Renzo Piano in the 1990s, has been criticized for the mediocrity of its architecture and its inability to blend into the surrounding older neighborhoods.
Ms. Hadid's 3-D drawings of the Kartal project are instantly recognizable as the work of the designer, who is known for buildings and furniture that capture a sense of movement. The Kartal structures have a surreal, sand-castle quality.
Ms. Hadid is "actually a very traditional architect" who is aesthetically rather than theoretically driven, says Eelco Hooftman, a principal in Gross. Max., the Edinburgh-based landscape architecture firm that is collaborating with Ms. Hadid on the Bilbao project.
Two of the five phases of Biopolis, Ms. Hadid's One-North project in Singapore, have been completed. Buildings were designed by other architects using Ms. Hadid's plan as a guide, and elements such as the wavy roofscape and skybridges preserve the Hadid flair, says Dillon Lin, Ms. Hadid's project architect.
The campus "doesn't look like the rest of Singapore," says Paul Chapman, head of the GlaxoSmithKline research facility at the complex. "The bold design and the kind of buzz about it keep us thinking creatively."
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