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The 7th Int.'l Expo. of Architecture, Venice, Oct. 2000

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  • T. J. Binkley
    Greetings Hillel, I just received your book yesterday. Thank you very much for sending it. I studied it over my break yesterday afternoon, and just reviewed
    Message 1 of 5 , Jan 25, 2001
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      Greetings Hillel,

      I just received your book yesterday. Thank you very much for sending
      it. I studied it over my break yesterday afternoon, and just reviewed it
      again today.

      I agree with you that "Intimate Anonymity"---the provision for multitudes
      of strangers to interact with one another, free of the judgements and
      expectations suffered by those living in isolated villages, communes, or
      modern cul-de-sacs---is an essential element of a successful city. You
      clearly affirm, that the "Intimate Familiarity" that goes with being part
      of a real community is also essential to the city dweller. The point is to
      maximize our opportunity to CHOOSE our own intimate group, as opposed to
      having it forced upon us by circumstances beyond our control. I still
      believe that your full intent could be more clearly expressed by reworking
      your definition of a city. For your consideration:

      CITY= a fixed place that maximizes the opportunity for multitudes of
      strangers to choose their own communities

      It seems to me that the primary ingredient necessary for this (aside from
      the requisite population density) is supremely generous circulation. I can
      understand, therefore, why you would continue to invest your energies in
      the idea that all forms of transportation must be included in a city, and
      that pedestrians should never be separated from vehicular traffic. Your
      experiment with the plazas in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv demonstrate clearly
      that proximity to and orientation toward a well-traveled public street is
      what makes a public square live---not pretty buildings. As long as the car
      is the primary means of travel in cities, the success of public spaces will
      depend on proximity to roads well-traveled. However, while the best
      pedestrian streets may have suffered a few decades of automobile traffic
      before being pedestrianized, they were all carfree a hundred years ago; and
      the mix of traffic then present moved at a pace that was much less hostile
      to the large number of pedestrians that defined that mix. What if the
      primary traffic that you want to keep pedestrians in touch with was not
      automobile traffic? This is the promise of the carfree city: all the
      mobility (access) that modern society demands (as well as plenty of
      provisions for Intimate Anonymity), without the social and environmental
      burdens imposed by cars.

      I can't resist responding to the question you pose on page 32:
      "...what have the planners of the 20th century lost that enabled previous
      generations of planners to create such lively and meaningful urban spaces?"

      Nothing much more, or less, than the collective memory of how pleasant,
      vibrant and socially relevant public streets can be when they're filled
      with people instead of cars.

      Incidentally, your ten points "emanating from the concept of Intimate
      Anonymity" are well provided for in the reference design described in
      "Carfree Cities"---with one big exception, of course. Imagine the
      following as an alternate to your ninth point ("Never entirely separate
      pedestrians from vehicular traffic..."):

      Transportation is the chief design problem of modern cities. Public spaces
      will be successful only to the extent that they are an integral part of the
      circulation network that a city's inhabitants use on a daily basis. Yet
      there is a growing awareness that the needs of automobile traffic, for
      space and for speed, are in direct conflict with the needs of non-motorized
      traffic for human density, a sense of enclosure, and personal
      safety. Encourage dense, pedestrian-friendly districts, linked-up with
      fast, rail-based transit, as a progressive replacement for the private
      automobile in big cities.

      I found it interesting that you seemed most pleased (in your comments on
      page 45) with the proposal put forth by Plesner Architects, the conclusion
      of which reads like a sales pitch for carfree development: :^]
      "...Transport we have not mastered. It has mastered us, and has nearly
      destroyed the wonderful human qualities of most cities of the world... We
      can create a public and private urban transport infrastructure, which
      leaves the surface of the earth free for people on foot, and free from the
      tyranny of the wide, traffic-engineered, noisy, smelly, dangerous, ugly and
      boringly straight streets."

      I also found it interesting that you compared this scheme to a medieval
      city, and compared contemporary "real human needs" to those "catered for by
      the medieval city". I seem to recall you stating something (in a previous
      message) to the effect that you felt it was inappropriate to look to
      medieval cities for insight into how to create better cities today. Please
      explain.

      Once again, thanks for the book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I look
      forward to your reply. I also look forward to having an informed
      discussion with someone with your insight and experience about several
      aspects of the reference design described in "Carfree Cities".

      Best regards,

      T.J.
    • Doug Salzmann
      ... Planners of the 20th century, in many places, also lost the 40-70% of space in the urban cores that were devoured by the automobile over the course of the
      Message 2 of 5 , Jan 26, 2001
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        T.J. responded (eloquently, I thought) to a question in Hillel's book:

        >I can't resist responding to the question you pose on page 32:
        >"...what have the planners of the 20th century lost that enabled previous
        >generations of planners to create such lively and meaningful urban spaces?"

        Planners of the 20th century, in many places, also lost the 40-70% of
        space in the urban cores that were devoured by the automobile over the
        course of the century.

        -Doug
      • sharch@inter.net.il
        Dear T.J., Thank you for taking the time to look at my book and for your comments. ... of ... This is interesting but I feel it already presupposes the
        Message 3 of 5 , Jan 28, 2001
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          Dear T.J.,

          Thank you for taking the time to look at my book and for your
          comments.


          For your consideration:
          >
          > CITY= a fixed place that maximizes the opportunity for multitudes
          of
          > strangers to choose their own communities

          This is interesting but I feel it already presupposes the knowledge
          of the term "community" and the fact that people ought to form
          communities. I believe that although people mostly do form
          communities, these are not ends but means. People form communities in
          order to further their chances for survival, in fact, to satisfy
          their natural instinct for eternal survival. I believe that if people
          could survive eternaly they would not form communities or cities.

          As long as the car
          > is the primary means of travel in cities, the success of public
          spaces will
          > depend on proximity to roads well-traveled. However, while the
          best
          > pedestrian streets may have suffered a few decades of automobile
          traffic
          > before being pedestrianized, they were all carfree a hundred years
          ago;

          I realy don't believe you are suggesting a return to the pre car
          period. I'm just reading a wonderful book "The Gospel According to
          Jesus Christ" were there is an account of a visit of Joseph, Jesus's
          father, to Jerusalem which was Carfree at that time obviously. His
          description is of a buisy noisy stinking city, a place were i'm sure
          you wouldn't like to walk through.

          and
          > the mix of traffic then present moved at a pace that was much less
          hostile
          > to the large number of pedestrians that defined that mix. What if
          the
          > primary traffic that you want to keep pedestrians in touch with was
          not
          > automobile traffic?

          I think people should be in touch with all kinds of traffic,
          pedestrian, scootrs, bicycles, motorcycles, cars, light trains etc.
          The mix is important and I agree that for too long the car has been
          given prority which should be reduced, not elliminated.

          >
          > I can't resist responding to the question you pose on page 32:
          > "...what have the planners of the 20th century lost that enabled
          previous
          > generations of planners to create such lively and meaningful urban
          spaces?"
          >
          > Nothing much more, or less, than the collective memory of how
          pleasant,
          > vibrant and socially relevant public streets can be when they're
          filled
          > with people instead of cars.

          See my note about Jerusalem above. Also, some of my favourit streets
          in Paris cater for both cars and pedestrians. I don't find any
          problem with this.


          Imagine the
          > following as an alternate to your ninth point ("Never entirely
          separate
          > pedestrians from vehicular traffic..."):
          >
          > Transportation is the chief design problem of modern cities.

          I must disagree. The chief design problem of modern cities is zoning
          and low densities. The second problem is the modern view of buidings
          as free standing sculptures instead of the tools for the definition
          of urban space.

          Public spaces
          > will be successful only to the extent that they are an integral
          part of the
          > circulation network that a city's inhabitants use on a daily basis.

          Agreed.

          Yet
          > there is a growing awareness that the needs of automobile traffic,
          for
          > space and for speed, are in direct conflict with the needs of non-
          motorized
          > traffic for human density

          Tame the car then, don't kill it.


          >
          > I found it interesting that you seemed most pleased (in your
          comments on
          > page 45) with the proposal put forth by Plesner Architects, the
          conclusion
          > of which reads like a sales pitch for carfree development: :^]
          > "...Transport we have not mastered. It has mastered us, and has
          nearly
          > destroyed the wonderful human qualities of most cities of the
          world... We
          > can create a public and private urban transport infrastructure,
          which
          > leaves the surface of the earth free for people on foot, and free
          from the
          > tyranny of the wide, traffic-engineered, noisy, smelly, dangerous,
          ugly and
          > boringly straight streets."

          You are right. This was my favoured scheme. But for the fact that
          during our discussions with the Plesners I criticized what seemed to
          me their over reaction to the car.


          >
          > I also found it interesting that you compared this scheme to a
          medieval
          > city, and compared contemporary "real human needs" to
          those "catered for by
          > the medieval city". I seem to recall you stating something (in a
          previous
          > message) to the effect that you felt it was inappropriate to look
          to
          > medieval cities for insight into how to create better cities
          today. Please
          > explain.

          Yes, I think the problem which is central to my criticism of "New
          Urbanism" is that new urbanists react to the failure of modern
          planning by phisicly copying styles of the past. believing in shapes
          and materials rather then undrstanding human needs. I believe that
          with the rules set by "Intimate Anonymity" you can plan good cities
          using modern technology. The city will not look like a medieval city
          but will function for it's inhabitants like one.


          >
          > Once again, thanks for the book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
          I look
          > forward to your reply. I also look forward to having an informed
          > discussion with someone with your insight and experience about
          several
          > aspects of the reference design described in "Carfree Cities".

          Could you help me get a copy of Carfree Cities? I'm certainly
          interested in reading and commenting.


          Sincerely,

          Hillel
        • sharch@inter.net.il
          Hi Doug, Please read my response to T.J. s remarks. Hillel ... previous ... spaces? ... of ... the
          Message 4 of 5 , Jan 28, 2001
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            Hi Doug,

            Please read my response to T.J.'s remarks.

            Hillel



            --- In carfree_cities@y..., Doug Salzmann <doug@t...> wrote:
            > T.J. responded (eloquently, I thought) to a question in Hillel's
            book:
            >
            > >I can't resist responding to the question you pose on page 32:
            > >"...what have the planners of the 20th century lost that enabled
            previous
            > >generations of planners to create such lively and meaningful urban
            spaces?"
            >
            > Planners of the 20th century, in many places, also lost the 40-70%
            of
            > space in the urban cores that were devoured by the automobile over
            the
            > course of the century.
            >
            > -Doug
          • T. J. Binkley
            Hi Hillel, ... Correct. I m quite fond of many of the collective acheviements 20th-century mankind. ... I m especially grateful for modern plumbing and sewage
            Message 5 of 5 , Feb 1, 2001
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              Hi Hillel,

              >I realy don't believe you are suggesting a return to the pre car
              >period.

              Correct. I'm quite fond of many of the collective acheviements
              20th-century mankind.

              >I'm just reading... an account of a visit of Joseph, Jesus's
              >father, to Jerusalem which was Carfree at that time obviously. His
              >description is of a buisy noisy stinking city, a place were i'm sure
              >you wouldn't like to walk through.

              I'm especially grateful for modern plumbing and sewage systems. :^] Do
              you imagine that Jerusalem was ever busier, or noisier, than it is right now?

              >... new urbanists react to the failure of modern
              >planning by phisicly copying styles of the past. believing in shapes
              >and materials rather then undrstanding human needs.

              I hear this accusation levelled against the New Urbanists quite
              frequently. I'm curious, which human needs have they neglected, or failed
              to understand?

              >I believe that
              >with the rules set by "Intimate Anonymity" you can plan good cities
              >using modern technology.

              What are some of your favorite examples of modern technological
              improvements over the sort of building done in say, 19th-century Paris?

              >The city will not look like a medieval city
              >but will function for it's inhabitants like one.

              Isn't it interesting that so many people have so much affection for "the
              look" of the old medieval sections of many cities? Why do you think that is?

              Cheers,

              T.J.
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