1628 image (from mexicomaxico.org)
For some reason I found this week that image of Mexico city in 1628, drawn by Juan Gómez de Trasmonte and conserved at the Archivo General de Indias. A century after the conquest the city is still surrounded by lakes, and the structure of city blocks is apparent.
I also found that image of a mural by Diego Rivera (XXth century), representing the pre-hispanic city. Sure that is not a historical city, but I like the image.
Diego Rivera, National Palace, Mexico (image from wikipedia)
A façade on the Calle de Alcalá, Madrid
When you think about façades you think about buildings (one by one, taken as separate items) ; if you think in terms about bocks, the building façade is in a context, be it planar or not…
The façade is in the context of its plan, but also in that of a corner, or related to others in the same street but on the next block. And it is also in the context of whatever happens on the street, be it cars, cranes, horses, ships, you name it…
The façade is just a face of the reality, as it is often rather mute when it comes to describe how deep the building is, or how it relates to the core of the block.
A plan of the same block in Calle de Alcalá (the façade is the one from the white part)
Façades around the corner of Menendez Pelayo and Menorca, Madrid
Façades around the corner of Ibiza and Menendez Pelayo, Madrid. A wider street, a diferent relation
UNESCO published this text, by Alain Borie and François Denieul, in 1984. The World Heritage Convention was enacted in 1972, and the first properties were inscribed in 1978, so this is a rather early text in the production of the “world heritage” concept in its urban derivations.
This is a classical manual, based on the decomposition of the urban tissues in systems: lots, streets, buildings, open spaces… a lot of images in the final part.
The map of Rome drawn by Giambattista Nolli in 1748 is one of those documents that any planner (or at least any architect- planner) would like to have for the cities in which she works. It is the ancestor of many maps used in historic district plans. Sure, nowadays those historic district plans can also include detail regarding the layout of non-monumental buildings, but the debt towards this pioneering map is what it is…Alongside the five weeks in balloon by Jules Verne and the maps of Turgot for Paris and Texeira for Madrid, it is one of those works that predate such things as google maps…
The University of Oregon has a website in which you can get a look at the document; the app allows a comparison with current satellite images. Berkeley allows the access to jpg portions of the map.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a block is “an area of land surrounded by four streets in a city”. It is one of the less specific definitions among the languages I have consulted, but it gives a number of four streets, so there is a hint of a quadrangular shape somewhere. The Oxford dictionary, despite a more complex urban layout in Britain, says “a group of buildings bounded by four streets”, but it also recognizes that in America this applies to an area (no need for buildings)… bound by four streets.
What is relevant in terms of architecture and urban planning in a block?
- Size, minimal in middle age cities or Genoa, and enormous in Berlin and other cities.
- Treatment of courts or internal spaces, when they exist
- Permeability between street and court
- The way the street and the lateral façades relate: continuous or not, with varying setbacks by level…
- The shape of angles
- Differences in height between buildings
These are the subjects for the next weeks.
Elisabeth Essaïn presented in 2006 her PHD in Architecture before the Paris 8 University, as a work on the 1935 Moscow Plan. This post is based on a special issue of the Annales de la Recherche Urbaine in 2012.
The plan adjusts, according to the context of that time, without having to cope with the complexities of the private property of land or buildings. The city block- primary street couple becomes a central element of that plan. The plan proposes a substantial extension of the city, with city blocks growing from an average of 3 hectares to some 10 to 15 (some 7,5 acres to between 25 and 38, for imperial system readers). It is in fact an experience with superblocks, related in their size to public transportation, and in this sense it is not that far away from other European experiments at that time.
The PHD dissertation also includes a vision of the complex political scenario, with purges and persecution, to which the Moscow architects were no strangers.
Design Density is a research laboratory at the Design Department of the Milano Polytechnic. The Link Magazine, published by Mediaset, called them to do a work for their tenth issue in which they were to visualize a series of datasets concerning how Italians see TV. From the first season of Big Brother and its followers by region (quite related to the places contenders came from) to other issues as the time “compass roses” of audience by chain. All this can be seen in a Flickr group.
The upper image corresponds to the village of Alange, in the Spanish province of Badajoz. The dam was completed in 1992, with a wall 67 m high (from foundation) and 720 m long, so what until then was just a village over the Matachel river became a space marked by water and a new coastline. This is no doubt a project beyond the means of a small municipality, and was managed by the Guadiana Water Board. This action produces a new landscape that allows the use of water for irrigation (in lower lands there is a wide agrarian plain) and electricity production.
The reservoir has a catchment basin of 2.545 sq km (which is equivalent to 60% of Rhode Island), and its water surface, of some 35 sq km, is marked by some islands which display the geology of the area. The areas that were to be underwater were cleaned of all vegetation, so when the water level changes sometimes the shores look rather arid, in contrast with a much greener area of lands above water.
Water has brought relevant change; a neighborhood was moved as its precedent site was flooded, some new buildings respond to the new landscape, and it is fair to think that the payments to the owners of land taken to be submerged must have somehow influenced the local economy. There sure was an impact due to the flooding of the lower valley agrarian land, usually a fertile one. Over a stretch, the new layout of the road goes between the urban edge and the water, but its physical configuration is not very attractive. Water has become the central element of an area of the Natura 2000 European Nature considered a Relevant Birds Area; birds have become users of the reservoir. But people are becoming less relevant in number; there were 2.031 residents in 1996, and in 2014 this number fell to 1.946.
Richard Edes Harrison’s story is interesting: how a designer became a cartographer not because of specific map-making skills, but rather through his ability to convey a complex information to common people. In a moment (WWII) in which aviation was the technology that transformed the perception of distances, his maps introduced to the US public projections and perspectives that, by going ahead of the traditional Mercator projection, allowed people to better understand the events as they unfolded.
Timothy Barney’s and Kenneth Field’s articles are interesting