Butterfly City, Korea by GlobalDesign Workshop
Beyond New Urbanism
Principles of the Past, Technologies of the Present, Vision for the Future
(Continued from Where New Urbanism Goes Wrong)
It seems that the intent of the New Urbanists is to recreate Old Urbanism, inclusive not only of those time tested principles based on human nature, but also the specifics of architecture and planning that were based on the available technologies of the time. We respect the former and reject the latter.
Throughout history, architects and planners have adopted the technologies of the day. Gothic cathedrals, for example, were technological wonders. Even periods that looked backwards, such as the Renaissance, celebrated technological advancements, such as Filippo Brunelleschi’s dome on the Florence Duomo. Prague is a city that proudly displays many architectural styles including Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Classic, Art Nouveau, Cubism, Functionalism and contemporary. Yet in their time, each of these styles was new and controversial. The favorite building of Czechs, for example, the “traditional” Art Nouveau Obecini Dum, was extremely controversial in its time. Yet each of these styles, developed largely due to advances in technology, contributes to the richness that is Prague today.
Support the study of what has worked in the past, the application of principles gleaned from that study applied today and for the future, and the incorporation of those principles with the technologies, materials and methodologies available to us today. We reject the forced adaptation of those technologies, materials and methodologies to the sensibilities and aesthetics of the past when the principles neither support to require that adaptation.Prague, Czech Republic
Should a “green” home be forced to resemble a nineteenth century dwelling? Should all contemporary cities be forced to adopt the rigid geometries of the towns in which those nineteenth century dwellings were built? What of our Butterfly City in Apahae-do Korea, designed based on planning principles largely shared by New Urbanists, yet beautifully and metaphorically shaped? What of Daniel Liebeskind’s recent design for Seoul, which, while arguably lacking public plazas, is beautifully massed and creates outstanding pedestrian streets? What, for that matter, of Prague, Rome or Siena, none of which were built on any sort of grid?Seoul City, Korea by Daniel Libeskind
We believe in an architecture that celebrates today’s culture, today’s lifestyle, today’s technologies while incorporating the principles developed over centuries of design and planning. There is no need to reject one or the other.
As designers, we have established a series of false dichotomies:
Fine art vs. pop culture
Artistic purity vs. pragmatic populism
Artists and architects vs. the movie and entertainment industry
Design theory vs. strategic planning
Additionally, we have established a series of dogmatic statements which, depending on one’s point of view, are either foundational principles or ludicrous and pejorative assertions:
Pragmatism without design principles = kitsch
Design theory without an understanding of behavioral psychology creates cold, hard places
Only architects understand how to create beauty (primarily visual)
Only entertainers understand how to capture imaginations through stories and metaphors (5 senses)
CityWalk is popular but not beautiful or timeless
The Salk Institute is beautiful but empty
The best places, however, the most timeless places, combine both the purist and the pragmatic schools of thought:
Prague’s Old Town Square
Siena’s Piazza del Campo
New York City’s Rockefeller Center and Museum of Modern Art Sculpture Garden
Must timeless beauty and effective pragmatism, sense and sensibility, be mutually exclusive?
Water, especially with (small) boats, green, places to sit, people to watch and open space are always popular in an urban environment.
This curving liquid spine is the literal and figurative backbone of the city, connecting tourist destinations to “town centers” for locals.
People, activity, water, opportunities to wander and outstanding views of Prague’s town center.
Morocco’s largest souk spills into this grand square, Marrakesh’s town center, that comes alive with food and entertainment and the sun’s shadows lengthen and the cool of the evening gives relief to the heat of the day.
New Orleans food and jazz, the highest concentration of colorful people to watch, cafes, retail and entertainment for all.
Retail design at its roots – people, people, people.
A small waterfront square with outstanding views of the Bosphorus with cafés, restaurants, art galleries and artisan shops.
Before there were theme parks – long before there were theme parks – there were the Tivoli Gardens. A mixture of nature and amusement, Tivoli has been a favorite pastime during the long days of Copenhagen’s remarkable Summer since 1843.
The birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is steeped with history and romance, and its outstanding streets and squares filled with people, retail shops and restaurants.
Bryant Park is a peaceful place in the midst of Manhattan’s towers and crowds. Just blocks from Times Square, this “Town Center” park is a favorite with locals seeking sun, sleep or society.
Since 1461, Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar has served as the city’s retail hub. 250,000 to 400,000 people a day wander the Bazaar’s streets, domed bedestens and dine in its shaded outdoor courts.
Built 2000 years ago by the Romans, this ancient retail district has thrived ever since, and is worth study by anyone interested in creating a thriving retail place.
The Piazzas at the heart of this stunning Tuscan city are multi purpose, and are frequently and quickly repurposed – a late night outdoor theater becomes an early morning farmers’ market.
State Street, where the pedestrian comes first, the auto a distant second, is always active, always filled with people. It is a thriving outdoor retail and entertainment center where the primary form of entertainment is watching all the people.
This stunning Southern Bohemian city, along with the castle perched above it, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and dates to the 13th century. This small but gorgeous town, bifurcated by its “S” shaped river, is an easy and rewarding walk.
Prague’s town square, with its animated clock, variety of architectural styles, retail shops, cafes and restuarants, as well as its proximity to a plethora of outstanding streets and districts is only rivaled in Northern Europe by the much larger Paris.