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Re: [carfree_cities] PhD thesis topic

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  • Thomas C
    ... did they really know that well about the right place to build or does it seem like it because the only places that remain from those times have never
    Message 1 of 10 , Sep 27, 2005
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      > Hi Joel,
      > this is a very interesting question, indeed. I got a little bit of an idea
      > to look into this subject after I had done a few place studies as part
      > of my MSc dissertation. One of the places was Il Campo in Siena in
      > the context of Siena as a whole. The message of these places is
      > pretty interesting, but what is even more interesting is how those
      > guys in the past found out about the right place to build, a place that
      > has an inherent rightness, and how they avoided the less suitable
      > places, which we don't today (see New Orleans).

      did they really know that well about the "right place to build" or
      does it seem like it because the only places that remain from those
      times have never been destroyed?

      seems to me like the main design goal at the time was to be able to
      protect the city from outside, which often meant using natural
      elements to your advantage (mountains, rivers, hills) by settling on
      top of a hill with a river and stiff cliffs around you (ex. Entrevaux,
      04, France).

      i'm not sure sustainability was such an issue at the time. it seems
      like natural catastrophies were seen as godly events...

      of course, they were sustainable in the sense that they were dense and
      no petrol was necessary to go from one place to the other. but that
      was not a choice for sustainability but simply a response to the time
      contraint that you did need to be able to get on a daily basis from
      the fields to the market place.

      i haven't thought much about the question and it might be an
      interesting one. would it have been possible that they had no clue and
      no design? just day to day trial and error, building and rebuilding...

      tc


      btw: i've heard of a place in france where people build a castle (i
      think, or something like that) the way it used to be done, with
      horses, iron, etc. no modern tools. not sure how they design. i
      believe it is funded by tourists that come visit.
    • Huang Eu Chai
      ... Hi Joel, it might interest you to know that extensive research if this sort was carried out on Venice in the early 1980 s lead by a history professor who
      Message 2 of 10 , Sep 28, 2005
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        --- In carfree_cities@yahoogroups.com, "J.H. Crawford" <mailbox@c...>
        wrote:

        > This would make a great topic for a PhD thesis in urban planning,
        > and it would require someone to spend YEARS poking through
        > the best parts of France and Germany. Tough life, but somebody
        > has to do it. Fluent French and German required.


        Hi Joel,
        it might interest you to know that extensive research if this sort
        was carried out on Venice in the early 1980's lead by a history
        professor who used to teach at the University Institute of
        Architecture in Venice.

        The research analysed records of property taxes kept in the National
        Archives, which the Venetian Senate had imposed every 30-50 years
        since 1467. From the property descriptions found in the documents,
        and co-relating them to the documented urban planning policies and
        regulations, period paintings and wood etchings, as well as existing
        urban form, the researchers were able to reconstruct the fabric of
        the city from the mid-1400's and trace its evolution through the
        centuries. Discoveries included highly detailed information on the
        distribution of wealth (based on declared rent), density of various
        types of commerce, major shopping routes, and even zoning.

        There's a book published on this, but it's in Italian. The
        professor's name is Ennio Concina and the book is entitled "Venezia
        nell'eta' moderna", Marsilio Editori, Venice, Feb. 1989.

        From my own experience, I'd say medieval urban forms are very much
        studied in Italy, so there would be a wealth of research available at
        the various universities there.

        By the way, it seems the ancient Venetians had a pretty sound
        ecological approach to development. Example: when digging up the
        lagoon to create new shipping routes, they'd first do a minimum
        amount of excavation under water, and then wait. If the conditions
        are right, the existing currents will deepen the excavation naturally
        and the new canal would be ready for use in three years without
        further work. If not, then all will be covered by sediment and no
        trace of the excavation would remain.

        Rather clever, isn't it?

        Regards,
        Eu Chai
      • J.H. Crawford
        Hi Eu Chai, ... Amazing! ... Thanks, I ll try to get a copy of that even though I don t read Italian. ... Now we need the same depth of study in France and
        Message 3 of 10 , Sep 29, 2005
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          Hi Eu Chai,

          >it might interest you to know that extensive research if this sort
          >was carried out on Venice in the early 1980's lead by a history
          >professor who used to teach at the University Institute of
          >Architecture in Venice.
          >
          >The research analysed records of property taxes kept in the National
          >Archives, which the Venetian Senate had imposed every 30-50 years
          >since 1467. From the property descriptions found in the documents,
          >and co-relating them to the documented urban planning policies and
          >regulations, period paintings and wood etchings, as well as existing
          >urban form, the researchers were able to reconstruct the fabric of
          >the city from the mid-1400's and trace its evolution through the
          >centuries.

          Amazing!

          >Discoveries included highly detailed information on the
          >distribution of wealth (based on declared rent), density of various
          >types of commerce, major shopping routes, and even zoning.
          >
          >There's a book published on this, but it's in Italian. The
          >professor's name is Ennio Concina and the book is entitled "Venezia
          >nell'eta' moderna", Marsilio Editori, Venice, Feb. 1989.

          Thanks, I'll try to get a copy of that even though I don't
          read Italian.

          >From my own experience, I'd say medieval urban forms are very much
          >studied in Italy, so there would be a wealth of research available at
          >the various universities there.

          Now we need the same depth of study in France and Germany.

          >By the way, it seems the ancient Venetians had a pretty sound
          >ecological approach to development. Example: when digging up the
          >lagoon to create new shipping routes, they'd first do a minimum
          >amount of excavation under water, and then wait. If the conditions
          >are right, the existing currents will deepen the excavation naturally
          >and the new canal would be ready for use in three years without
          >further work. If not, then all will be covered by sediment and no
          >trace of the excavation would remain.
          >
          >Rather clever, isn't it?

          Oh, it's amazing how clever people can be when they have to do
          all the work by hand. So this method was simple--you did a little
          digging, and if nature wanted to help, it was good. If nature
          didn't like it, then you would have had constant problems with
          the channel silting up even if you did dig it all out by hand,
          so it was just a poor idea all around.

          If you have more sources on these matters to suggest to me,
          I would be very interested.

          Thanks & regards,

          Joel



          ------ ### -----
          J.H. Crawford Carfree Cities
          mailbox@... http://www.carfree.com
        • Thomas C
          ... you mean compared to what we do now-a-days, shipping ingredients for a strawberry yogurt over 9000+ km? tc?
          Message 4 of 10 , Sep 29, 2005
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            > Oh, it's amazing how clever people can be when they have to do
            > all the work by hand. So this method was simple--you did a little
            > digging, and if nature wanted to help, it was good. If nature
            > didn't like it, then you would have had constant problems with
            > the channel silting up even if you did dig it all out by hand,
            > so it was just a poor idea all around.

            you mean compared to what we do now-a-days, shipping ingredients for a
            strawberry yogurt over 9000+ km?

            tc?
          • Huang Eu Chai
            ... for a ... Precisely!! :) It is amusing to note that there is a major shipping channel that was cut sometime last century which runs a straight line from
            Message 5 of 10 , Sep 29, 2005
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              --- In carfree_cities@yahoogroups.com, Thomas C <thomas.cr@g...>
              wrote:
              > you mean compared to what we do now-a-days, shipping ingredients
              for a
              > strawberry yogurt over 9000+ km?


              Precisely!! :)

              It is amusing to note that there is a major shipping channel that was
              cut sometime last century which runs a straight line from the
              industrial area in Marghera on the mainland, though the Venetian
              lagoon, and on to the sea. It basically disrupted the ecology of the
              whole lagoon, and now not only do they need to dredge it frequently
              at great expense to keep it open, but the disrupted lagoon drainage
              is causing havoc to the wildlife in the area - stagnant water, algae
              growth, reduced oxygen in the water, and lots of dead fish. That's
              why Venice has tons of mosquitoes in summer, and the water stinks too.

              Just one more reason NOT to visit the city during the high season!

              Eu Chai
              ps. I'll have to admit to having chocolate-covered cherries delivered
              from Seattle to New York City, just so I could bring them back to
              Singapore with me. I guess I am as guilty of indulging in global
              shipping as much as anyone else...
            • kiwehtin
              ... Coming back to your comments about bastides (and perhaps by implication, other medieval new towns), it seems there has been some research done on these,
              Message 6 of 10 , Sep 29, 2005
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                On Sep 29, 2005, at 9:07 AM, J.H. Crawford wrote:

                > Now we need the same depth of study in France and Germany.

                Coming back to your comments about "bastides" (and perhaps by
                implication, other medieval new towns), it seems there has been some
                research done on these, as I was able to pull up several pages (in
                French) on the web. The interesting thing is that they were planned
                top-down and are very different from the typical medieval town design
                you have referred to:narrow, winding streets with irregularly sited
                (i.e. not gridded) buildings built at a human scale. This kind of
                town growth (we can assume) was unplanned, bottom-up, and the result
                of accretion over time. The bastides you mention were put in place by
                those in power with the goal of resettling areas under their control;
                although there were variations in design, they tend to be
                characterized by a grid-based street plan with often wider carriage
                roads, narrower cross streets and a market at the centre (micro-
                Manhattans in a way...). Settlers were granted more or less equal-
                sized lots inside the town to build their homes (the "airal"), and a
                garden plot (the "casal") just outside the town. At least one of the
                web sites I googled up has a bibliography that could be consulted for
                more info.

                In some ways, these grid plans remind me of something I read at some
                point about Roman army camps, though my memory of these and whether
                any metamorphosed into permanent settlements is faint...

                I any case, Edmund Bacon touches briefly on medieval urban form at
                several points early in _Design of Cities_, and I suppose some of the
                information he uses elsewhere must come from references in his
                bibliography, though how useful those sources might be I could not
                say. Early in the book, Bacon takes the reader on an illustrated
                walk into the central square of the Italian village of Panza on
                Ischia and makes an interesting, but unsupported, comment that the
                way a particular house was built must be due to how its builder had
                experienced the overall context of the town by walking through it on
                the same route he takes us through. Could the architectural patterns
                proposed by Alexander and colleagues be used as a framework for
                understanding how this might have been the case? Could we assume that
                at some level, these patterns (or some version of the general
                concept) are what have given structure to vernacular urban design all
                over the world?

                In any case, I assume that what you are interested in is in fact this
                more organic, intuitive, bottom-up process rather than the planned
                "new town" approach of the bastides and their counterparts elsewhere
                from the later Middle Ages. It seems to me that -- whoever might be
                interested in taking up the challenge -- several things need to be
                considered to arrive at an understanding of how this cumulative,
                intuitive approach gives rise to "organic" urban form. Here are some
                questions I would ask myself if I were to take on this kind of
                investigation:

                What are the roles of:
                - topography? (Including, in the case of Venice, hydrography...,
                applicable of course to other sites...)
                - functional constraints, e.g.
                - solar access and shelter from winds and sun, usefulness of
                watercourses, ponds, lakes etc. on the site?
                - security from attack?
                - walking distances to major destinations?
                - shaping of external space into "outdoor rooms" for interaction?
                - a hierarchy of streets and public spaces if such can be found?
                - cultural and geographical differences: what aspects of urban design
                might turn out to be fairly universally shared, and what might be
                specific to particular cultures? (e.g. various parts of the Euro-
                Mediterranean world; sub-Saharan Africa; the Indian subcontinent;
                East Asia, Southeast Asia, North, Central and South America... Think
                of how the Arab courtyard house style affects overall urban form
                compared to [especially northern] European styles.) Some of these
                cultural differences are likely climate-influenced, I'm sure...
                - other factors?

                One book that just came to mind is Robert Hughes' (1992) Barcelona,
                an epic artistic and cultural history of the city. I don't have it on
                hand at the moment, but I recall that -- one of his main themes being
                the architectural development of the city -- he does deal to some
                extent with the form of the medieval part of the city, the Barri
                Gòtic, before going on to describe its expansion over the centuries.
                An interesting side note: chronicling the development of the Example
                ("expansion") neighbourhood, built in the late 19th century, Hughes
                shows how the original socially idealistic plans for a mixed use and
                mixed income area complete with large interior courtyards in each
                block were torpedoed by the greed of later developers.

                Christopher Miller
                Montreal QC Canada
              • J.H. Crawford
                ... Oh, yes, there is a fair bit of stuff on the bastides, at least in France. ... Well, not so fast. In the first place, few of these towns actually ARE on a
                Message 7 of 10 , Oct 1, 2005
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                  Christopher Miller mused:

                  >Coming back to your comments about "bastides" (and perhaps by
                  >implication, other medieval new towns), it seems there has been some
                  >research done on these, as I was able to pull up several pages (in
                  >French) on the web.

                  Oh, yes, there is a fair bit of stuff on the bastides, at
                  least in France.

                  >The interesting thing is that they were planned
                  >top-down and are very different from the typical medieval town design
                  >you have referred to:narrow, winding streets with irregularly sited
                  >(i.e. not gridded) buildings built at a human scale.

                  Well, not so fast. In the first place, few of these towns
                  actually ARE on a grid plan. Sections of them may be gridded,
                  but even here, most of the streets are slightly curved. Maps
                  have often regularized their features. Monpazier seems to
                  be the only one that is perfectly rectilinear. They appear
                  to be built at human scale.

                  >This kind of
                  >town growth (we can assume) was unplanned, bottom-up, and the result
                  >of accretion over time.

                  Well, maybe. That's one of the questions: to what degree WERE
                  these towns planned? Just because they are irregular does not
                  mean that they were not planned. (Almost everyone seems to
                  assume otherwise, however.)

                  >In some ways, these grid plans remind me of something I read at some
                  >point about Roman army camps, though my memory of these and whether
                  >any metamorphosed into permanent settlements is faint...

                  Yes, IIRC, there are distinct parallels.

                  >In any case, Edmund Bacon touches briefly on medieval urban form at
                  >several points early in _Design of Cities_, and I suppose some of the
                  >information he uses elsewhere must come from references in his
                  >bibliography, though how useful those sources might be I could not
                  >say. Early in the book, Bacon takes the reader on an illustrated
                  >walk into the central square of the Italian village of Panza on
                  >Ischia and makes an interesting, but unsupported, comment that the
                  >way a particular house was built must be due to how its builder had
                  >experienced the overall context of the town by walking through it on
                  >the same route he takes us through.

                  It is precisely the need to support these contentions that
                  lead to the need for this work. I, like Bacon, believe these
                  things to be true, and, like him, cannot prove it.

                  >Could the architectural patterns
                  >proposed by Alexander and colleagues be used as a framework for
                  >understanding how this might have been the case? Could we assume that
                  >at some level, these patterns (or some version of the general
                  >concept) are what have given structure to vernacular urban design all
                  >over the world?

                  Basically, I think, yet. We can't assume that Alexander's
                  patterns are universal, comprehensive, or correct, although
                  I think the evidence is that he got it pretty close to right.

                  >Here are some
                  >questions I would ask myself if I were to take on this kind of
                  >investigation:
                  >
                  >What are the roles of:
                  > - topography? (Including, in the case of Venice, hydrography...,
                  > applicable of course to other sites...)
                  > - functional constraints, e.g.
                  > - solar access and shelter from winds and sun,
                  > - usefulness of watercourses, ponds, lakes etc. on the site?
                  > - security from attack?
                  > - walking distances to major destinations?
                  > - shaping of external space into "outdoor rooms" for interaction?
                  > - a hierarchy of streets and public spaces if such can be found?
                  > - cultural and geographical differences: what aspects of urban design
                  >might turn out to be fairly universally shared, and what might be
                  >specific to particular cultures?

                  This is a good list of questions. To add to it:

                  Locally-available materials
                  Wealth of the town
                  Labor supply
                  plus....????

                  (e.g. various parts of the Euro-
                  >Mediterranean world; sub-Saharan Africa; the Indian subcontinent;
                  >East Asia, Southeast Asia, North, Central and South America... Think
                  >of how the Arab courtyard house style affects overall urban form
                  >compared to [especially northern] European styles.) Some of these
                  >cultural differences are likely climate-influenced, I'm sure...

                  Yet oddly, the courtyard districts of Fes-al-Bali and Marrakech
                  feel rather similar to Venice in their proportions and general
                  arrangement. It is true that the streets in Marrakech are fairly
                  straight, but it is by no means a regular grid, and sight-lines
                  are closed, so the enclosure is as good as in Venice.

                  >One book that just came to mind is Robert Hughes' (1992) Barcelona,
                  >an epic artistic and cultural history of the city. I don't have it on
                  >hand at the moment, but I recall that -- one of his main themes being
                  >the architectural development of the city -- he does deal to some
                  >extent with the form of the medieval part of the city, the Barri
                  >Gòtic, before going on to describe its expansion over the centuries.
                  >An interesting side note: chronicling the development of the Example
                  >("expansion") neighbourhood, built in the late 19th century, Hughes
                  >shows how the original socially idealistic plans for a mixed use and
                  >mixed income area complete with large interior courtyards in each
                  >block were torpedoed by the greed of later developers.

                  Well, it may just be the greed of the people who owned the places.
                  There's a continual interest in building on to a house, and if
                  there is a courtyard, why that's the obvious place to build....

                  Regards,





                  ------ ### -----
                  J.H. Crawford Carfree Cities
                  mailbox@... http://www.carfree.com
                • Thomas C
                  here are a couple links about a town called entrevaux in the south of france. some pictures from above: http://www.entrevaux.info/entrevaux_galerie_ciel.php
                  Message 8 of 10 , Oct 1, 2005
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                    here are a couple links about a town called entrevaux in the south of
                    france.

                    some pictures from above:
                    http://www.entrevaux.info/entrevaux_galerie_ciel.php

                    some history:
                    http://www.netprovence.com/sivomentrevaux/histoire.htm

                    you can see from the pictures that the natural elements are central in the
                    whole design. the river on three sides, the mountain on the third.

                    the defense issue is also a crucial one. there's a wall with a bridge on the
                    river side. on the other side, you climb up to the citadelle (military place
                    on top) which is protected by a cliff, high walls and a bridge. there's
                    another big protected door on the church side (on the right when you look
                    from the other side of the river) which goes to the now soccer-field (which
                    i guess used to be used for food).

                    according to the history link, the village moved quite a bit before settling
                    there to protect themselves from the river and the invasions.

                    i know that big fortification works were done by vauban under louis XIV but
                    don't know what it looked like before.

                    thomas


                    On 10/1/05, J.H. Crawford <mailbox@...> wrote:
                    >
                    >
                    > Christopher Miller mused:
                    >
                    > >Coming back to your comments about "bastides" (and perhaps by
                    > >implication, other medieval new towns), it seems there has been some
                    > >research done on these, as I was able to pull up several pages (in
                    > >French) on the web.
                    >
                    > Oh, yes, there is a fair bit of stuff on the bastides, at
                    > least in France.
                    >
                    > >The interesting thing is that they were planned
                    > >top-down and are very different from the typical medieval town design
                    > >you have referred to:narrow, winding streets with irregularly sited
                    > >(i.e. not gridded) buildings built at a human scale.
                    >
                    > Well, not so fast. In the first place, few of these towns
                    > actually ARE on a grid plan. Sections of them may be gridded,
                    > but even here, most of the streets are slightly curved. Maps
                    > have often regularized their features. Monpazier seems to
                    > be the only one that is perfectly rectilinear. They appear
                    > to be built at human scale.
                    >
                    > >This kind of
                    > >town growth (we can assume) was unplanned, bottom-up, and the result
                    > >of accretion over time.
                    >
                    > Well, maybe. That's one of the questions: to what degree WERE
                    > these towns planned? Just because they are irregular does not
                    > mean that they were not planned. (Almost everyone seems to
                    > assume otherwise, however.)
                    >
                    > >In some ways, these grid plans remind me of something I read at some
                    > >point about Roman army camps, though my memory of these and whether
                    > >any metamorphosed into permanent settlements is faint...
                    >
                    > Yes, IIRC, there are distinct parallels.
                    >
                    > >In any case, Edmund Bacon touches briefly on medieval urban form at
                    > >several points early in _Design of Cities_, and I suppose some of the
                    > >information he uses elsewhere must come from references in his
                    > >bibliography, though how useful those sources might be I could not
                    > >say. Early in the book, Bacon takes the reader on an illustrated
                    > >walk into the central square of the Italian village of Panza on
                    > >Ischia and makes an interesting, but unsupported, comment that the
                    > >way a particular house was built must be due to how its builder had
                    > >experienced the overall context of the town by walking through it on
                    > >the same route he takes us through.
                    >
                    > It is precisely the need to support these contentions that
                    > lead to the need for this work. I, like Bacon, believe these
                    > things to be true, and, like him, cannot prove it.
                    >
                    > >Could the architectural patterns
                    > >proposed by Alexander and colleagues be used as a framework for
                    > >understanding how this might have been the case? Could we assume that
                    > >at some level, these patterns (or some version of the general
                    > >concept) are what have given structure to vernacular urban design all
                    > >over the world?
                    >
                    > Basically, I think, yet. We can't assume that Alexander's
                    > patterns are universal, comprehensive, or correct, although
                    > I think the evidence is that he got it pretty close to right.
                    >
                    > >Here are some
                    > >questions I would ask myself if I were to take on this kind of
                    > >investigation:
                    > >
                    > >What are the roles of:
                    > > - topography? (Including, in the case of Venice, hydrography...,
                    > > applicable of course to other sites...)
                    > > - functional constraints, e.g.
                    > > - solar access and shelter from winds and sun,
                    > > - usefulness of watercourses, ponds, lakes etc. on the site?
                    > > - security from attack?
                    > > - walking distances to major destinations?
                    > > - shaping of external space into "outdoor rooms" for interaction?
                    > > - a hierarchy of streets and public spaces if such can be found?
                    > > - cultural and geographical differences: what aspects of urban design
                    > >might turn out to be fairly universally shared, and what might be
                    > >specific to particular cultures?
                    >
                    > This is a good list of questions. To add to it:
                    >
                    > Locally-available materials
                    > Wealth of the town
                    > Labor supply
                    > plus....????
                    >
                    > (e.g. various parts of the Euro-
                    > >Mediterranean world; sub-Saharan Africa; the Indian subcontinent;
                    > >East Asia, Southeast Asia, North, Central and South America... Think
                    > >of how the Arab courtyard house style affects overall urban form
                    > >compared to [especially northern] European styles.) Some of these
                    > >cultural differences are likely climate-influenced, I'm sure...
                    >
                    > Yet oddly, the courtyard districts of Fes-al-Bali and Marrakech
                    > feel rather similar to Venice in their proportions and general
                    > arrangement. It is true that the streets in Marrakech are fairly
                    > straight, but it is by no means a regular grid, and sight-lines
                    > are closed, so the enclosure is as good as in Venice.
                    >
                    > >One book that just came to mind is Robert Hughes' (1992) Barcelona,
                    > >an epic artistic and cultural history of the city. I don't have it on
                    > >hand at the moment, but I recall that -- one of his main themes being
                    > >the architectural development of the city -- he does deal to some
                    > >extent with the form of the medieval part of the city, the Barri
                    > >Gòtic, before going on to describe its expansion over the centuries.
                    > >An interesting side note: chronicling the development of the Example
                    > >("expansion") neighbourhood, built in the late 19th century, Hughes
                    > >shows how the original socially idealistic plans for a mixed use and
                    > >mixed income area complete with large interior courtyards in each
                    > >block were torpedoed by the greed of later developers.
                    >
                    > Well, it may just be the greed of the people who owned the places.
                    > There's a continual interest in building on to a house, and if
                    > there is a courtyard, why that's the obvious place to build....
                    >
                    > Regards,
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    > ------ ### -----
                    > J.H. Crawford Carfree Cities
                    > mailbox@... http://www.carfree.com
                    >
                    >
                    >
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                    >
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    >


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