Coast

From Alps to Atlantic (7) Finding your way in a peninsula

Coruña-peninsula

La Coruña

I was born on a peninsula, and I like that kind of places. Some people from inland areas are somehow puzzled, as for them a coastal city should have water only in one direction, a far cry from what a peninsula is. These same people have a still harder time when they realize that a peninsular city changes its shape constantly; not that inland cities are different, but here the coastline provides a more apparent limit that makes things clearer.

The best way to find your way on a peninsula is to look for a tall element. A lighthouse, a hill, a chimney… if you have no such elements, you are in trouble, as ships can come from anywhere (thank god, in the Cadiz marshes you have shipyards with large cranes, power towers and a new bridge…).

Some have found a loophole: make city grow so much larger than your peninsula that it will no longer be noticed. But this is somehow cheating…

peninsulas

Biblio (95) Rebuild by Design

Rebuild by Design is an initiative of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Even if sometimes from Europe such a ministry seems unlikely for the US, it has existed for decades, with influential policies, although not always on the good sense… as everywhere. HUD is looking for a way to tackle the urban resilience challenge posed by climate change, taking into account the Sandy lessons. These lessons can benefit other rebuilding efforts or risk prevention schemes. The initiative has formalized as a competition whose results were published in April, with 10 winners proposing alternatives for damaged coastal cities. There are big names from the architectural world, as OMA, but the projects are not just drawings, as they benefit from public participation; according to the available information, what is really chosen is not a team of architects, but local coalitions that have built consensus and will receive grants to develop proposals that have been formalized by specialists.

Shapes and outlines (3) Hills

Mont St Michel, France. Image from Wikipedia

mont st michel

Mont St Michel, France. OSM map

The shape of things can be the result of many factors. But usually the European middle ages cities were roughly circular in shape as this allowed a good protected area- wall length ratio. As there certainly existed good reasons to look for shelter, cities usually were placed on higher ground when compared to the surroundings, and often right on top of a hill. Mont St Michel is the clearest example (although by size it is not a city), but there are others, as Betanzos in Spain, where just 30 m (some 90 ft) of level difference already shows the issue. In these cases, the city plan shows relations between built volumes, but far from what the real urban space can provide. To begin with, side walls become visible as buildings along the street line are on different levels, but the ground level must also adapt.

Betanzos, as seen on the city website http://www.betanzos.net

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Maps 2014 (15) Sea currents

corrientes

The search for flight MH370, disappeared on its path from Malaysia to China, has made clear, due to the “false positives” trying to find remains, that the ocean is far from clean. In fact, what we often draw (from land) as an empty space, is a quite dynamic world in which “gyres” concentrate surface pollution. Today’s map, by Cameron Beccario, shows the sea currents with updates every 5 days; gyres are not visible (not at least in an evident manner), but it is an aesthetical treat (while being base on scientific data). The Mediterranean and other inner seas are not rendered. On the same website you can see a map of winds, again a treat. Notice that you can switch between cartographic projections, a nice feature.

Re-mid-sized cities (2) Ancient maps

New Orleans in 1718 as a project. A rather naive one, as the relative scale of things is quite unaccurate (the relation between the river and the Pontchartrain lake is an example).

New Orleans in 1718 as a project. A rather naive one, as the relative scale of things is quite unaccurate (the relation between the river and the Pontchartrain lake is an example).

New Orleans in 1744. Things have become more real (lots, buildings), the size of things is also more accurate

New Orleans in 1744. Things have become more real (lots, buildings), the size of things is also more accurate

Havana in 1743. A city turned towards its bay, as the coast to the open sea is more complex to defend against raiders.

Havana in 1743. A city turned towards its bay, as the coast to the open sea is more complex to defend against raiders.

Marseilles in 1743, a city still mainly concentrated north of the Vieux Port

Marseilles in 1743, a city still mainly concentrated north of the Vieux Port

In 1836 Marseilles has substantially expanded, in less than a century

In 1836 Marseilles has substantially expanded, in less than a century

Seville in 1590. A large city, which controlled a substantial part of the American trade

Seville in 1590. A large city, which controlled a substantial part of the American trade

Seville in 1771. A more complex city, but not a much bigger one.

Seville in 1771. A more complex city, but not a much bigger one.

Far away ports (8) The port is dead, long live the port

puertos int-ext

Think of a complex coastline, which is under the regular impact of strong storms that even in the case of large oil tankers can lead to relatively high shipwreck events. One day comes the tanker whose wreck becomes, for various reasons of diverse coherence, a social threshold, a wreck too many. This happened in Galicia (north-western Spain) in 2002 with the Prestige tanker. As a result, the Spanish government (with powers over large ports) decides to create in La Coruña (b on the upper image) and Ferrol (d) two new large external harbours (a and c). The rationale is to take hazardous traffics off the city centres. Creating new infrastructures is rather common, but here the operation brings to mind what to do with urban core quays. Bilbao managed to conduct such an operation some 10 years ago around the Guggenheim museum.

The new General Plan of La Coruña. Urban extension land is red. The new harbor is on a different municipality.

The new General Plan of La Coruña. Urban extension land is red. The new harbor is on a different municipality.

The new General Plan of La Coruña defines a new residential area over much of what now are quays. The municipality is rather small, and quite occupied by urban areas, so it is a growth option. This will transform what is now an urban core harbour, and seems rather an industrial area, in a different thing, raising questions about how the soul of the city will change. But it also raises questions on how long this will take in a crisis context.

In the middle of this there is a large water surface.

In the middle of this there is a large water surface.

The port transformation proposal

The port transformation proposal

 

Far away ports (9) The Plan Regulador Intercomunal at Puerto Montt- Puerto Varas

supramunicipal puerto montt

The plan – published draft

The plan (started in 2009, under environmental scrutiny as of 2013) defines a land use model for a 860 sq km zone including part of the territory of five municipalities. It encompasses two coastal areas (the southern shore of the Llanquihue lake and the seashore around Puerto Montt), as well as the main north-south Chilean throughfare, the Panamerican Highway, as it crosses the area. The aerial images show an interesting landscape in which this road, stretching along a plain, seems to attract varied uses.

The aim is to set a frame for urban growth, preventing sprawling growth around the lakeshore, conserving farmland and forests, and ensuring an urban model that respects the environmental assets of the region while providing services to citizens and prevention against natural risks. But maps seems to show a substantial growth area along the lakeshore, with some caution areas concerning natural risks. To be seen in the final plan… Anyway, the port is an economic asset, but what is transforming the land (as nearly everywhere) is the car…

Far away ports (6) Regional planning- Brest

Ports matter as exchange points between exterior ports and the served inland areas. How is this organised in terms of metro area relations in terms of spatial planning?

Portada SCOT

Brest has a regional planning document (SCOT) encompassing the western tip of Brittany and 14 intermunicipal cooperation schemes. The SCOT is relevant for some land use operations over 5 hectares (some 12 acres) and big box retail proposals. Its maps must be adapted by local planning to a larger detail scale. The urban system is organized in urban agglomerations (large population settlements in all the coastal municipalities+ 3 secondary settlements + areas so defined in local plans), villages (over 40 dwellings) and hamlets. Infill growth is priorized (and the only option in hamlets), and higher level settlements can also have continuity growth (no leapfrog growth permitted).

Brest's regional development scheme basic layout: a special relevance is given to the conservation of the coastal band and to the  survival of the traditional farmland. urban growth must follow a set of rules, being directed towards a linear expansion of the main city along the northern shore of the bay

Brest’s regional development scheme basic layout: a special relevance is given to the conservation of the coastal band and to the survival of the traditional farmland. Urban growth must follow a set of rules, being directed towards a linear expansion of the main city along the northern shore of the bay

Transportation is also a relevant issue for Brest's SCOT.

Transportation is also a relevant issue for Brest’s SCOT.

Far away ports (5) Transit maps

Ports have a central meaning as nodes in a network of maritime transportation; a ship captain can only get to the right harbour if provided a good navigation chart. So it is interesting to see how the residents of these port cities are told how to go from one place to another by public transit (mainly bus in cities this size).

This somehow brings to the mind the work of Kevin Lynch on the image of the city, as well as how citizens perceive it. Sure, architects like global maps in which the whole network can be seen, but these are not always easy to understand for lay people, and besides their design is not always clear.

La Coruña has a lines map quite complex. It is a peninsula with a narrow isthmus which causes a heavy density of lines in certain areas, so it is not that easy for some to understand how to go from A to B. Bus stops have a simplified version of that network; some people complain that the map is hard to read in dense zones. The transit company’s website shows simply a list of stops along each line, and a link to google for maps showing which streets the bus takes.

Líneas transporte urbano puerto montt (www.loslagos.transporteinforma.cl)

I have found no clear, structured website about urban transit in Puerto Montt, but rather (and it seems quite usual in Chile) a central Government site that explains, by province, the transit networks by classes, including the municipal scale.

parte bus

Brest has the most sophisticated public transit system of these four cities, with supra-municipal scale and a tram line. There is a real network map, quite clear, which reproduces the map of the territory without deformations; besides, line maps are also based on the geographical map. There is also an interactive map.

DTA Routes

Even if this may come as a surprise to many given its quite peripheral location in the US and its sprawl, Duluth also has a public transit system. There is a map of the whole network, and the line maps are, as many similar things in the US (just think of the zoning map in NYC) utterly simple, but efficient. The street grid is reproduced under the line layout without deformations, for each line.

Overall, despite the role of the ports in the economies of these cities, transit networks show overall that there is a more complex reality (being otherwise clear that this minute analysis is just considering line layouts, excluding such things as schedules or fares).