Month: June 2013

The Fifth Avenue

Fifth avenue BID: 1,2 km of central street. The red outline is that of the BID.

Fifth avenue BID: 1,2 km of central street. The red outline is that of the BID.

The fifth avenue is very, very long; avenues in Manhattan go from north to south in the island, and this is longer than 10 km. Along this distance there are many neighborhoods and diverse settings, and here I’m interested in the Fifth Avenue Bussiness Improvement District, one among a series of such public- private partnerships for the maintenance and retail promotion. Other parts of the avenue are included in BIDs, but this one is the most iconic for the image this street conveys to the world.

The BID encompasses a section of 1,2 km of the fifth avenue and a variable depth on lateral streets; for instance, the Rockefeller Center, drawn on the upper map with a hatched black rectangle, is not completely into the BID, while the 57th st section goes from Madison Avenue to the Sixth. This shows that the perception of space and its influence areas by retailers is adapted to specific factors, not related to geometric regularity.

Fifth avenue is slightly more that 28 m wide. There are three lanes in a single direction (towards downtown) and a bus lane. This leaves 6 m sidewalks. No doubt, this street is associated usually to luxury, but sidewalks are of concrete, without great detailing, but for some tree grids (there are few trees) as those of the Rockefeller Center. There are also remarkably few underground infrastructure access plates.

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alcorque rockef aceras fifth

Streets for Marx and Kutuzov

Karl-Marx Allée from Straussberg Platz

Karl-Marx Allée from Straussberg Platz

As an answer to the post on Avenue Foch I have received an interesting mail from my friend Vadim Litovchenko, showing similarities and differences with the Kutuzovskaiya Prospekt in Moscow (the entry to the city from the Minsk Motorway). This has reminded Karl-Marx Allée in Berlin, that I visited two years ago. In both cases, showcases for the Stalinist urbanism of the 1950s. But as always, I’m not here to talk politics (both street have survived regime changes and they will probably do it again in the next centuries), but about how space is determined by some design ideas. Besides, I’m more fond on Groucho than on Karl.

Karl-Marx Allée: 3,44 km of triumphant way towards Poland

Karl-Marx Allée: 3,44 km of triumphant way towards Poland

Kutuzovskaiya prospekt: 3,75 km of access up to the banks of the Moskva

Kutuzovskaiya prospekt: 3,75 km of access up to the banks of the Moskva

Both cases are just huge; both streets are over 3 km long and 100 m wide. Kutuzovskaiya (honoring Marshal Kutuzov, the defender of Moscow against Napoleon) has substantially more cars, but what was relevant for design was the relation between volumes and perspective (and with a 100 m wide street this asks for high volumes); both cases show axis that are not straight (a departure from Avenue Foch), with elements that distort the linearity of that space, as the exchange with Moscow’s third beltway of the gigantic Straussberg Platz. But anyway there are spaces by the buildings that are rather pleasant in Moscow, and the images and story told by Vadim show a similar situation in Moscow (a city I have never visited).

The issue is not whether these streets are freeways or not (Avenue Foch was not one, I just sometimes force a bit the reasoning), but if they are still streets as a unitary space. They are finally large linear spaces in which different legibility scales are overlapped, with subsequent use experiences, marked by the definition of vegetation and lateral alleys.

Near Straussberg Platz in Berlin

Near Straussberg Platz in Berlin

The central lanes of Kutuzovskaiya

The central lanes of Kutuzovskaiya

The sidewalks of Karl-Marx Allée

The sidewalks of Karl-Marx Allée

The lateral alleys of Kutuzovskaiya

The lateral alleys of Kutuzovskaiya

Avenue Foch

1, 3 km long, 140 m wide: can to much width kill the street?. Green indicates private owned non built spaces

1, 3 km long, 140 m wide: can to much width kill the street, even in an utmost posh Paris location?. Green indicates private owned non built spaces

Central road: few intersections, a substantial distance to buildings, so it is somehow like a freeway...

Central road: few intersections, a substantial distance to buildings, so it is somehow like a freeway…

Lateral alleys: so much distance to the other side, hard to call it the same street.

Lateral alleys: so much distance to the other side, hard to call it the same street.

 

Ibiza- Sainz de Baranda

Ibiza- Baranda 720 m

The title is about streets, not the island… With a total length of 720 m and a width of 30 m, lateral sidewalks slightly over 2 m, and a central promenade of 11 m, Ibiza and Sainz de Baranda streets are an interesting case. They have the same overall width and the same kind of building that Narvaez, their perpendicular street, has. They connect the Retiro, the grand central park of Madrid, and as they have central promenades they have a certain number of cafes and restaurants. The whole neighborhood is reasonably served with retail (not a magnet for shoppers as some blocks to the north, but not the worst area in the city either). But the more retail looking street is Narvaez: despite giving more space to the car, it gets up to the department stores in Goya- Felipe II, sidewalks are wider (some 5 m) and, probably, the fact there are less trees “distracts less” the pedestrians, that so can focus on the shops on the opposite sidewalk (essential…).

Calle Alcalde Sainz de Baranda

Calle Alcalde Sainz de Baranda

ibiza-baranda ibiza-baranda2

 

Belgravia

Eaton Place, 25 m of street between main façades

Eaton Place, 25 m of street between main façades

Belgravia is a district of London, southwest from Buckingham palace. As in most parts of the West End, it is an area developed by a family development corporation, with long term leases at the end of which the real estate good reverted to its original owner, here the Grosvernor Group. It is a space associated to the richest in London. And it shows, as many other in the West End, a particular street design in which the lot line courtyards are an essential feature.

There are no retail venues on the street, just mansions that follow a common architeral model. The intimacy of the ground floor comes from the setback from the street allowed by the courtyard that brings light and air to the service spaces underground (this is where “Upstairs, Downstairs”, the BBC series, was staged).

Today many of the original houses have been transformed in apartments, and others have become offices for businesses lucrative enough to pay the rent… no trees in sight, and wide, but not too much, sidewalks; it is not a street in which to live, interact or chat, rather an exhibition and connection space. The on-street parking is completed by the backyard mews, discretely closed by some parking doors.

The architectural quality of the buildings is good, but depends mainly on the serial effect. The architectural difference with some social housing projects in peripheral areas, which are not as well in socio-economic terms, is rather quality (as well for the dimension of elements as for building materials) and maintenance, than the project itself (and I do not dislike the area)

Biblio (44) The guidelines for public space in metropolitan Bordeaux

Biblio 44

The Communauté Urbaine de Bordeaux (a metropolitan governance body), in France, has published a guide on the project of public spaces. The document is to be read with the Guide for Urban Quality and Sustainable Urban Works edited by the same entity. It has two chapters to be considered as recommendations and three that have a normative role.

The general guidelines for urban interventions are:

–           A city of proximity, favoring the neighborhood scale

–           A reinforced quality of urban spaces and heritage

–           Mastering mobility

–           Ensuring economic vitality

–           A greener and better city

The inhabited city is divided in four wide categories, from the core to the outer spaces: the central site, the neighborhoods, the pericentral territory and the peripheral territory. The landscape analysis is also integrated in the definition of the area.

Five hierarchical levels are defined for streets, from local to freeway.

The document has contents on the dimensions of the spaces as much as on the building materials.

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Real street in La Coruña

real-300m

Real street in La Coruña (Galicia, Spain) is one of the most relevant in the historical core. Some 300 m long and 7 m wide, it was historically an inner road as related to the seashore, today at a greater distance due to landfill. The urban patter is relatively regular, although not homogeneous in geometrical termes: the axis of the street is not entirely straight, but the end can be seen from the beginning.

The street was historically a retail core for the city; the metropolitan expansion, peripheral malls and economic crisis have since eroded that role, today largely diluted.

The architectural uniformity is rather maintained in the central section, but there have been relevant changes to the west (A). The paving, made of large granite slabs (that can give you “downside up rain” on rainy days if they move…) is still there. It is a pedestrian street, but for deliveries to retail, as many of the surrounding streets, not only by regulations, but also due to their dimension (and the lack of garages in such narrow lots…)

Real-1 Real-2

The Paseo de Gracia in Barcelona

Paseo de Gracia: 1,3 km of length

Paseo de Gracia: 1,3 km of length

The Paseo de Gracia is not just a choice location to see Gaudi Works in Barcelona, as it is also one of the first streets in the Ensanche; in fact, its layout has a slight angle when compared with the general grid, which follows the straight line of the Gran Vía, defined by distant points. It is a boulevard with a central main way, lateral planted alleys and side service traffic alleys.

With an overall width of 60 m, the central way is 22 m, and the sidewalks of the buildings are in some places 9 m wide. It is one of the prime retail locations in the city.

The intersection with the Gran Vía de les Corts Catalanes. The urban furniture is quite simple in this busy crossing.

The intersection with the Gran Vía de les Corts Catalanes. The urban furniture is quite simple in this busy crossing.

A zoom on the previous image. The Paseo is really divided in a set of central lanes and lateral service lanes, separated by platforms with trees

A zoom on the previous image. The Paseo is really divided in a set of central lanes and lateral service lanes, separated by platforms with trees

Urban furniture in the most Gaudi-esque section of the street.

Urban furniture in the most Gaudi-esque section of the street.