Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

"geometrical fundamentalism" piece

Expand Messages
  • Guy Berliner
    ... I ve been reading the piece by Mehaffy and Salingaros: http://www.plannet.com/features/geometricalfundamentalism.html I find it very stimulating. It gets
    Message 1 of 2 , Feb 3, 2002
    • 0 Attachment
      -----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----

      I've been reading the piece by Mehaffy and Salingaros:
      http://www.plannet.com/features/geometricalfundamentalism.html

      I find it very stimulating. It gets me thinking about the mathematical
      analysis of "modernity." The authors suggest that we can analyze in a
      purely mathematical way the defects of modern architecture and urban
      planning, as compared to earlier forms. And if so, then why couldn't we do
      the same thing prophylactically: i.e., apply a mathematical analysis to
      proposed future designs as well? Not to suggest that some kind of simple
      mathematical formula is possible for designing satisfactory built
      environments, but rather, that we could come up with metrics that would at
      least allow us to rule out the clearly dissatisfactory ones.

      "Connectivity" is a repeated theme in the piece by Mehaffy and Salingaros.
      So one common kind of metric would measure this property. I could imagine, for
      example, a statistic measuring the average number of pathways out of a
      building per side per occupant. Or the average number of safe and legal
      pedestrian pathways across a street per pedestrian per block. Such measures
      appeal to some of my common sense notions of humane living environments.

      Thinking of such things, I was reminded of the outrage provoked by former NYC
      mayor Giuliani's get-tough crackdown on jaywalkers in that city, and his
      orders erecting sidewalk barriers to intimidate would-be offenders. Hmm..
      Imagine a mathematical demonstration of the evils of such an approach to
      urban planning, backed up by the correlation of statistical evidence for its
      negative social impacts. Armed with such a scientific study, we would then be
      able to reject the ex-Mayor's approach as not only aesthetically faulty and
      inhumane, but downright irrational as well.

      In a truly progressive city, I imagine we would have rules based on some such
      metrics. I can imagine, for instance, a rule that would mandate
      a maximum distance to all sorts of things for the city's inhabitants, such
      as, for example, that no inhabitant ought to have to live further than a
      certain number of feet from a natural open space inviting strolling, etc.
      Any inhabitant would then have a basis to sue in court to block any
      megadevelopments that would deprive them of such things, or worsen already
      dissatisfactory conditions. If such criteria had been available years ago,
      infamous monstrosities like the Century Freeway could have been stopped dead
      in their tracks.

      Guy Berliner

      -----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE-----
      Version: PGPfreeware 5.0i for non-commercial use
      MessageID: 3UxA72D++MGPxmjJjobSWLnpBBB5/f6W

      iQCVAwUBPF4DDVJQVrV56+O1AQF/IAP/UMdIgUP1WJjKZTQl8uMc35bAyx3r+mpn
      yIRR/onVIF8ZSdyfd+OPNhy9o0kPlt06LXEbQhw6cW+dNVZJ93W/jsm06n+auc3D
      3rqzL/n5jZRaewo/NDMLoxLvBHTDRIsUPbFKQzLQdFuz/UnozVwLVwjhHHHT/yCK
      nzSkLGkTDQQ=
      =HCWz
      -----END PGP SIGNATURE-----
    • Doug Salzmann
      In a message sent Yesterday, Guy Berliner wrote: - Not to suggest that some kind of simple - mathematical formula is possible for designing satisfactory
      Message 2 of 2 , Feb 4, 2002
      • 0 Attachment
        In a message sent Yesterday, Guy Berliner wrote:

        -> Not to suggest that some kind of simple
        -> mathematical formula is possible for designing satisfactory built
        -> environments, but rather, that we could come up with metrics that would at
        -> least allow us to rule out the clearly dissatisfactory ones.

        Absolutely. I think there may be a number of such metrics, well within
        ordinary ability to devise and understand.

        -> "Connectivity" is a repeated theme in the piece by Mehaffy and Salingaros.
        -> So one common kind of metric would measure this property. I could imagine, for
        -> example, a statistic measuring the average number of pathways out of a
        -> building per side per occupant. Or the average number of safe and legal
        -> pedestrian pathways across a street per pedestrian per block. Such measures
        -> appeal to some of my common sense notions of humane living environments.

        Very good idea. And right on-target, I think.

        The value of connectivity is, I believe, generally agreed-upon among
        knowledgeable urbanists, although I don't know of any work quantifying the
        issue at the levels you suggest. Does anyone?

        We need another Holly Whyte.

        BTW, Whyte's _The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces_ is back in print.
        Anyone who hasn't read it is in for a major treat. I think you can get it
        at the Project for Public Spaces web site.

        -> Thinking of such things, I was reminded of the outrage provoked by former NYC
        -> mayor Giuliani's get-tough crackdown on jaywalkers in that city, and his
        -> orders erecting sidewalk barriers to intimidate would-be offenders. Hmm..
        -> Imagine a mathematical demonstration of the evils of such an approach to
        -> urban planning, backed up by the correlation of statistical evidence for its
        -> negative social impacts. Armed with such a scientific study, we would then be
        -> able to reject the ex-Mayor's approach as not only aesthetically faulty and
        -> inhumane, but downright irrational as well.

        I think it qualifies as brain-dead.

        The groundwork for this analysis should already be in place, although most
        of it has been done with a heavy bias in favor of auto traffic. Nevertheless,
        the same math basics apply. You may find the _Highway Capacity Manual_
        very interesting (probably in your local library in the US, although
        there was a new edition a couple of years ago that not everyone has
        obtained), along with the notorious _Manual on Uniform Traffic Control
        Devices_ (the "MUTCD"), which establishes the "warrants" for installation
        of various control devices -- stop signs, signals, marked crosswalks, etc.

        Both come from the Institute of Transportation Engineers ("ITE"). Their
        web site has a wealth of information, much of which reveals viewpoints and
        prejudices which are guaranteed to infuriate progressive urbanists, but
        they're getting better: <http://www.ite.org>.

        -> In a truly progressive city, I imagine we would have rules based on some such
        -> metrics. I can imagine, for instance, a rule that would mandate
        -> a maximum distance to all sorts of things for the city's inhabitants, such
        -> as, for example, that no inhabitant ought to have to live further than a
        -> certain number of feet from a natural open space inviting strolling, etc.

        Indeed. These sorts of goals and requirements can be integrated into the
        core planning documents of communities, usually known in the US as General
        Plans, upon which zoning and development regulations are based. Within
        the limits established by superior law, an amazing amount of city-shaping
        can be done in the preparation and updating of these documents.

        Interestingly, even local activists usually find the process
        too long and boring to sit through, leaving cities to beg for citizen
        participation and leaving the shape of the plans mostly to city staff--
        and developers, who are never bored by processes that affect their profit
        opportunities.

        This is the kind of politics where you really do have a voice. In most
        small and mid-sized communities, a dozen persistent people can
        make an enormous difference.

        -Doug
      Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.