URBAN GORILLA

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USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

Wisdom in Footsteps

In modern society any person will most likely pass through many cities before their death, and each one imprints a specific memory of place unto the person’s mind. A traveler’s memories may be small glimpses of buildings, or streets. Perhaps a person might remember their experience of a specific monument or cultural institution. However, if a person has spent a significant amount of time in a city their memories most likely will be different. They’re more likely tied to the significant parts of their lives that took place in the city. Perhaps it’s a specific place a person shared times with family or a loved one. Perhaps they’re strongest memory is of a place a friendship grew, or a place they experienced pain loneliness or anguish. The importance of these memories come not from the only the physical surroundings, but instead it is derived from an essential relationship between life, and the physical environment.

Throughout the time I have spent in Shanghai, my conscious memory of the city has grown slowly, but now seems to have created a small network of memory associations, and systems of personal knowledge. The knowledge of city can grow before a person ever touches foot in it. My knowledge of Shanghai grew first from a series of maps, historical events, and series of architectural elements. This information started building a timeline of physical morphology. My understanding grew about how the city evolved from a series of economic and political forces. Geographical elements such as the Yangtze River or political events such as the concession to the French and Mao’s revolution all have left a physical legacy on the city. The timeline created static glimpses, almost like snapshots, of the city historically up to the present day. The time in-between the snapshots was subconsciously filled in with assumption made from my personal understandings. However, the minute someone steps foot within the city, they begin to gain an understanding of the true knowledge of place. It is an understanding of how life infiltrates between the systems of roads, subway, and buildings. It is a dynamic knowledge that has a relationship to the static physical context, and thus it also has a relationship to history. The only way to gain insight into the knowledge of space is through immersion into the city. However, the knowledge of place is continuously changing. It is constantly evolving and being shaped by both local and global forces. The knowledge of place is concerned not with the specific nature of singularities, but instead by relationships and hybrids of space. It is from these relationships that the knowledge of place gains importance for architects and urbanists.

For an architect or an urbanist to successfully design for a city they must have knowledge of both physicality of a city, and the anthropological element of the city. The value of the anthropological element of the city comes from the understanding of the way people interact with the systems of the city as a whole. In Shanghai, city life tends to spill out of buildings on to the sidewalks. For an architect to design to the full potential, they must have an understanding of this anthropological instance. However, the physicality of a city still plays an important role. The grid of the streets, transit routes, and program dispersion are have important impacts on the city, however they gain true intelligence when those concepts are merged with anthropological elements.

SR

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History and Innovation

Culture is constantly shifting; there is a dynamic exchange happening. Kyoto is a cultural repository of culture in Japan. With a panoptic stance, Kyoto can be seen as an implicating and contaminating culture within Japan. The modern mixed with the traditional, displays the deep-rooted sense of history held within the city as well as how the city is dealing with the introduction of new wave of architecture into their building fabric. Shrines still stand in their original site, authentic and genuine, reverend by the locals. The notion of time reflects looking back into history allowing the culture to grow and become more of a form of knowledge as it becomes engrained into the locals. The involvement of innovation, where the gained knowledge is become instilled, detaches itself from a myth-based society due to the notion of the culture seizing to be factual but rather temporal and changeable. Looking forward becomes the base principle of that permanence within society. Once we become part of history, today we live in the present while tomorrow has its historical meaning, it has past so immediately we would not consider it in the past but eventually it becomes ancient. Culture can only be there as part of history if in fact we accept that culture is involved in the innovation process. The culture is constantly at a loss because it is caught between the searches for the reconciliation within our minds of our presumptions of Japan. As we settled into Shinagawa, our brief home stay, we were fully immersing ourselves into the everyday lifestyle in Japan. We each developed a daily routine and acknowledged our surroundings that became something familiar to us rather than foreign and unknown. We get into the idea of the “everyday”; we take the same path and every aspect of the city now has an embodiment of the thought of non-thought.

With technology, a detachment from traditionalism, a society is perceived as conformist yet it operates entirely on the other spectrum. The necessity is that we as participants need to transcend to embrace the contraction and the complexity which will offer more in holding onto the myth based agenda where we can observe and analyze. A city like Paris is encapsulated in a historical sense where the people are completely content with their city yet frustrated that there is no push forward; it is historically relevant to the people. As culture moves forward in time through the idea of modernization, it is simultaneously becoming less unique. It is rendered to become homogeneous where essentially once the discipline becomes monotonous or specialized, exposure to anything else becomes very slim. As we move towards society of spectacle, we must question whether a culture is being used in the process of creating the spectacle. We must ask ourselves why is each neighborhood made to be highlighting a certain aspect. Culture is a commodity of how society came to be a spectacle, and now that we have this knowledge, it is difficult for society to work outside of this notion.

09/18/2013 Paula M Narvaez

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Identities + Differences

“A life in boundless pursuit of pleasure makes one blasé because it agitates the nerves to their strongest reactivity for such a long time that they finally cease to react at all”

The city as a leader creates spectacle in a sense that the city is not only seen as an object but rather as a transformation of a place. The city provokes lives through the unique narratives created by itself, the people, and the culture. The spectacle and the phenomenon, or stimulations, relate to the normal and extreme. Tokyo is seen as a conforming society, where everything needs to regenerate in order to keep its set system from collapsing. The rules of engagement are set in place to drive order. No one deviates away from the law to do individual thinking; they simply just follow it.  The importance of being an individual within a city is to take on the role as an observant. By doing so, a larger understanding can be created through the stimulations. The idea where the blasé can either become more personal but with the consequence of being more conforming to society versus the blasé being less personal but with more room for individualism is solely up to the individual.

In a city like Tokyo, culture takes on a large role in deciphering the evolution of its dynamic. The city does not revolve around one culture but rather the city is a culture.

Within the conformed society, there are subcultures delved within the generic. The white collar business man seen walking to his destination on any given work day blends in among the mass canvas of other identically dressed neighbors packed into the subway station. The Pachinko Gambling centers offer a moment of spectacle where the businessman can create their own worlds within these loud, colorful, ornate alternative havens. Once they obtain their fulfillment they step outside the doors to once again enter the conventional world. The idea of the normal versus the extreme reflects the mental engagement of the individual within society. The Takeashita Dori in Harajuku offers an opportunity for the individual to express their personalities through fashion. Their choice of fashion displays a physical and tangible personal statement giving the opportunity to stray away from the collective. Efforts are made to be different and defy the silent rules set within society.

Attempts are made at simplifying the complexity, in this case the layers of culture. In terms of the generic versus the individual, some cases call for systems where people must be seen as a collective otherwise they will fail. Rules then become the main driver in defining the system as the dynamic evolves. The Ise Shrine located in Ise City, is rebuilt every twenty years where one site is torn down as its neighboring site is built on. The tradition is held neither through writing nor orally, but through the act of building. The heritage is found within the body of the building where the concept of wabi-sabi is implemented; the Shinto belief that death and renewal are temporary. Thus by erecting the shrine, the symbolism of the connection between ancient sacred traditions to the present lives on.

09/10/2013 Paula M Narvaez

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The Symbiosis Between Information Technology and Cultural Interactions

“While advances like the telephone and automobile clearly had wide-ranging impacts on the twentieth-century city, the recent wave of information technology promises to prove many more”- Scott Page and Brian Phillips, Urban Interfaces Designing the In-Between

Technology has become so vital in our lives that it facilitates almost everything around us. It allows us to gather information and increase our awareness of different programs as the distribution of communication, interaction and information is constantly morphing on a day-to-day basis. It now holds a greater presence within our lives more than ever.

As cities are shifting towards technology based, the physical city and its inhabitants are relying on the developing network of communication infrastructures. Cities including Tokyo and Seoul have fully immersed into this concept. Tokyo’s transit stations, in particular Shibuya Station, are catering to its population density, entertainment, and commercial intensity. The city has tapped into digital technology resulting in its commercial centrality to reflect human patterns and culture. Seoul has immersed itself into a completely wireless city- regardless of the location within the city, one is guaranteed to have access to a wi-fi network above ground and below ground (ie. metro subways). The web presence is substantial, unlike any other city I have visited. Upon landing into the ICN Airport, I was immediately connected to the internet via iPhone. I had no network data yet the internet allowed me to stay connected- I was “in the network” and I was connected up until my departure one week later.

Information is constantly being created and distributed. Heavily influenced by “the perspectives of media, speed, and personal perception”, the representation of our world impacts the way in which we design (61). The evolution of technology affects the way we conceptualize design. With vertical and horizontal connections, the vertical builds upwards as the horizontal allows information technology to spread among the landscape through infrastructure.

Connections are formed between networks of the urban fabric or physical beings such as social networks. Formed communities via the web have created spatial constraints as they manipulate the manner in which the user desires to be apart of something. The downfall is that physical impacts are decreased which then blurs the distinction between virtual and physical space as location-awareness diminishes. The virtual interface focuses on the particular needs of the individual catering to personal environments. We are influenced by the physical form that acts as a vehicle for “modulating streams of images (62)”. Projected images such as advertisements or entertainment media instill in the user a desire to match what they see. Advertisements for reconstructive surgery were plastered all over Seoul. A city known for its surge in aesthetic surgery clinics, there is a need to perfect the physical form. The persuasive ads to achieve a ‘specific look’ send underlying messages of pressure to cave into the generic. As the city conforms based on economic exchange, this need for personalization overrides the importance of the collective users. The quantity versus the individual places the individual under the generic, simply a number within the population.

The need to regenerate the technological based society means that the system will collapse, it does not have the ability to personalize. It all reverts back to the idea that money is a driver for culture. There is a desire to discover new advanced technology as this has a direct correlation to power. The more information given and known keeps the distribution of communication going tapping into the culture that feeds into this phenomenon.

11/26/2013 Paula M Narvaez

Filed under: Architecture, Culture, Japan, Korea, Tokyo, Urbanism, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Not Welcome in the NYC

There is a reason that Mr. Gehry always seems to get run out of town whenever he builds in the Big Apple. 8 Spruce Street, the latest work by American Architect and USC alum Frank Gehry, is touted as a skyline success and labeled a turning point in the ‘transition from the modern to the digital age.’ Nicolai Ouroussoff’s ‘Downtown Skyscraper for the Digital Age’ Architecture Review article in the February 09, 2011 edition of the New York Times Art & Design section makes the particularly audacious claim that the building is the ‘finest skyscraper to rise in New York City since Eero Saarinen’s CBS building’ and even more boldly claims that the building marks the birth of the digital era as Philip Johnson’s AT&T building did at the dawn of modernism.

Unfortunately, I believe the project falls short of those boastful claims.

Mr. Ouroussoff needs to reanalyze the building as apart of the dense urban environment of New York City. I fear that the Times writer is still constantly obsessed with the makeup of a particular building rather than its operation and performance within the urban construct. There is so much said in the article praising Mr. Gehry for contrasting beautifully with the terrible commercial drones that poison its context. There needs to be more discussion on how the architect missed a genuinely precious opportunity to pay homage to Tschumi and inject some cross-programming magic into this rather mundane Manhattan high-rise. Mr. Ouroussoff mentions a minimum of three user groups and programs that will occupy the building: residential, educational, and medical. Herein lies a fantastic mix of different users groups under one building skin and yet no program is altered to coerce the three to interact.

Unfortunately, the access points and circulation paths never come together so that at some juncture the user groups could mix. There is a precedent for a similar strategy that SOM utilized with their Tokyo Midtown Project by creating a collection of various programs and organizing them so various user groups could interact and utilize the space to its full potential. For those of you not familiar with the project, SOM organized, in one particular tower, a variety of different programs-from offices, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel, a hospital, post office, and a kindergarten-in order to achieve an efficient flow from the bottom of the building to the top. What can also be appreciated are the unique interactions that occur from different program users at interaction points. This aspect was completely lost in the Spruce Street project.  The author continues on to say that this “is architecture that convey[s] the infinite variety of urban life.” Urban life is about the interactions of an assortment of peoples, places, ways of life, beliefs, etc. There is very little urban life in the Spruce Street building. It is simply another skyscraper on the Manhattan skyline that does not seem interested in entertaining an intelligent urban strategy.

The city on a macro-level is an ecology of different inhabitants who all live, work, and interact together on a daily basis. Why not create a microcosm of this in a multi-programmed skyscraper, challenging the traditional notions of what a skyscraper is and how it functions?  Philip Johnson’s AT&T building challenged the then-assumptions of what a skyscraper was, why not do the same in a different era? The fact that you could plug this building into any other context only makes the architectural and urbanistic situation worse.

Instead of a sound urban approach, the aesthetic features of the building have become the unnecessary focal point of discussion for this project. The age of the decorated shed is dead as well as Deconstructivism. Architecture can no longer be content with merely providing visual pornography for a public whose tastes have evolved considerably since the dawn of the printing press. The author does make the correct point that the new era of architecture shares an involvement with technology, but where is that seen or discussed on the building? All that is written about is how great the building looks on the skyline and how great the shifting surfaces ‘attack the kind of corporate standardization that is so evident in the buildings to the south and the conformity that it embodie[s].’ There is no contextual response other than the fact that maybe the reflections of the surrounding buildings could be seen on the buildings façade. So even if Mr. Gehry is carrying out an homage to a Mies van der Rohe project, he is still practicing an outdated form of architecture and urbanism.

As for the author, as a student of architecture, it disappoints me to read an article praising a piece of architecture lacking in the essential urbanistic ingredients that are not suggested, but required in the 21st century. You are writing about an outdated form of architecture that has run its course and is not helping the cause of discovering and embracing new forms of architecture that are more about the programmatic interactions of its users than the façade material details.

-Christopher Glenn

Filed under: 8 Spruce St., Architecture, architecture review, AT&T building, cross programming, Downtown Athletic Club, ecology, Frank Gehry, Manhattan, Mies van der Rohe, New York City, New York Times, Nicolai Ouroussoff, Philip Johnson, Program, Rem Koolhaas, skyscraper, SOM, Tokyo Midtown, Uncategorized, Urbanism, ,

Peace and Quiet

Finally some peace and quiet! As I sit in my house in suburbia writing this essay, there are no horns blaring out the window, no maids yelling/ strangling each other in the hallway, and no listening to 17 other classmates bickering what to do for lunch. Like I said earlier, its nice to have some peace and quiet. I can make my own choices, without having to justify my every move to my peers. Instead of hiking to the train station, passing hawkers interrogating me “bagus, watch, hello?”, I can now get into my car, isolate myself from the world, and freely sing at the top of my lungs. After one crazy semester this is just what I needed, to literally clear my head of all the surrounding stimuli, and allow my mind to settle and digest everything that I have just encountered.

The truth is though; this shock of jumping into an environment that is desolate of exterior stimuli is kind of eerie. After being submerged and becoming a part of the urban fabric, I truly think this submersion will be one of the greatest experiences I had on my study abroad expedition. It’s easy to justify locations as being the highlights of your experience for example The Great Wall, or The World Expo, but in my opinion they are just blips on the larger picture of what we experienced over in Asia. For the first time in my life, I saw a sprawled density, a density that even when we were out in the boonies at our hotel, there was still a very active street life, with bystanders waiting at intersections, locals buying produce from the back of a truck, and shops lining streets that are not necessarily major thoroughfares. It is this lack of urban that creates isolation in suburbia, and I am starting to see how this is in many ways has been detrimental towards my development along with how our country has developed.

By creating nodes that become objects in the field, as opposed to a fabric, it creates an inward focus. Every time I leave my house I have to justify to myself where I am going and what I am looking to accomplish, whether this is going to drop off my laundry, catch up with a friend, or pick up dinner, every time I venture outside of my home it becomes a task. By always having an objective, it limits the spontaneous encounters that happen by chance, and hinders curiosity of what will be in the next alleyway or what new products will be in the windows as one passes by.

One element of the urban environment that is really interesting is its ability to create obscure conditions of program overlaps. For example having a grocery store, next to a grade school, backed by a subway station that the kids take home, enjoying their recently purchased snacks after school. By allowing these conditions to overlap onto one another different narratives and experiences start to play out, and become elements of the everyday. On the contrary creating nodes that are islands surrounded by a sea of pavement, strips the fabric of any potential of layering, restricting the diversity of the narratives that can take place.

Is there still hope? I think this is a question that everyone in our group is starting to ponder. Has America become so desensitized and lost in our ways that we have left behind the potential to create curiosity, ambition and tension with the built environment? Even Urban environments like Los Angeles, have become numb of experience, and have been characterized as a city for the automobile. We have stripped the layers out of the fabric and have replaced the fabric with isolated objects. In my opinion it’s easy to throw up our hands, and say America is done for, with our addiction to oil and economic depression. I don’t want to be that person that gives up hope, and walk away from the situation. Having the ability to take from my experiences abroad, and start finding ways to apply them back in our homeland, will hopefully start to create a better urban understanding. Taking on projects that push its impact on the urban environment, and understand no matter how large or small a project is, it has the ability to become something greater. Just like throwing rocks in a pond, no matter how small or how large the rock is it has the ability to have a greater rippling affect, than just the size of itself. This is not the end; rather it is just the beginning of a long journey ahead.

 

Ross Renjilian

 

Filed under: Architecture, Asia, Car, Density, High, Nodes, Renjilian, Ross, stimuli, Suburbia, Urbanism,

Revitalized by Programming

Buildings go through life cycles, a time period in which the use of the building no longer suites its original purpose. Some developers choose to knock down and start over, but others choose a different approach by reprogramming, and creating a new life out of something that flat lined. Here in China, we have seen a couple of precedents that reexamined the potential for old warehouses, by converting them into trendy creative industries.

Through gentrification, old warehouse districts have been converted into lofts, studios, galleries, cafes, shops, event spaces, and coffee houses. By tailoring these projects towards artists, collectors, and the public, these districts start to become thriving communities, allowing artists to live and work amongst their clients and other artists. These vibrant settings bring people from all over to appreciate artwork, and also to support the parasitic programs. Through successful gentrification, these creative industries become their own ecosystems that support art and the community.

We had the opportunity to visit a couple creative industries in China, The first one we visited was called OCT in Shenzhen, which was designed by Urbanus. Looking at an old warehouse district they were able to use the shells of the existing buildings, and retrofit them with gallery spaces, creative offices, lofts, and cafes. A steel and glass network of bridges, corridors, and storefronts, parasitically connect and feeds off of the existing fabric. This parasitic network grows through the different warehouses creating a communal public space that connects the multitude of retrofitted loft buildings. This contrast of new and old creates this distinctive texture that allows the two systems to be understood for their individual characteristics, and collectively as a way to create a unique public condition. The project is still under construction, but one could imagine these parasitic connections filled with people actively participating and being a part of the creative industry.

798 district in Beijing, created a creative industry by taking over an old artillery factory that was no longer used for manufacturing. 798’s quaint town atmosphere is created through its different street scales including: a major artery cutting through the district, side streets focusing on a smaller more intimate scale, and pedestrian friendly alleyways full of tiny shops, and art. The streets are lined with galleries marked by intricate entryways that carve into the old fabric, giving a fresh edge and identity to the individual warehouses. As you move from gallery to gallery you pass through a series of vaulted spaces and pristine white walls, contrasting the rough brick and aged wood. This district creates more of an attraction than a community, but the specificity allows the creative industry to be very unique, and engaging to the public. By taking out the sterile atmosphere and high admission fees, 798 creates a completely different setting for art that in my opinion, can become more appealing to a broader range of people. Art museums have their place, but this different setting gives art a new audience and appreciation.

The interesting design element behind these creative industries is the importance of program. These buildings were designed with the intentions of manufacturing, and ended up becoming vibrant creative industries. Instead of the buildings being torn down, the shells of the buildings were recycled and given a new life. The importance of program is not necessarily in the form of the space; rather it is in the strategy of program allocation, and finding a concept that creates stimulating environments. The ability to create culturally rich, and vibrant public spaces, out of something that was once intended for private mass production, demonstrates the importance of program strategy. As architects we may not have control of what happens to our projects when we finish the initial design stages, but if we envision interesting concepts, and strategic program strategies, we will hopefully see our ideas successfully carried on. If not the project may be reprogrammed to better fit its users, and sometimes that is just as exciting too.

Ross Renjilian

Filed under: 798, Architecture, Art, Beijing, China, Culture, Districts, Gentrification, OCT, Parasitic, Program, Programming, Renjilian, Renovation, Revitalized, Ross, Shenzhen, Urbanism, Urbanus, , ,

Fragmentation

“The changes in housing and in the land on which houses leave their imprint become signs of this daily life. One need only look at the layers of the city that archaeologists show us; they appear as a primordial and eternal fabric of life, an immutable pattern. Anyone who remembers European cities after bombings of the last war retains an image of disemboweled houses where, amid the rubble, fragments of familiar places remained standing, with their colors of faded wallpaper, laundry hanging suspended in the air, barking dogs— the untidy intimacy of places. And always we could see the house of our childhood, strangely aged, present in the flux of the city.” Aldo Rossi    The Architecture of the City

A million little pieces make up the whole, we have the ability to put these pieces together, and the ability to take them apart. Understanding a building by only its materials is to understand a puzzle by its individual pieces. Each brick, each tile, and each shred of fabric, was once part of a larger whole. There is a sick beauty to these images that picks apart not just a home, but hundreds of peoples homes, leaving walls and memories in shambles. The parts that make a whole, are just parts, but sometimes the parts are just as interesting.

 

Ross Renjilian

Urban Village demolition in Shenzhen, China


Filed under: Aldo, Architecture, building, China, Defragmentation, pieces, Renjilian, Ross, Rossi, Shenzhen, Uncategorized, Urban, Urbanism, Village, ,

New and Old

Urbanism looks at new possibilities for the built environment, by adding different ingredients to the community that allow the area to become richer, and better suited for its occupants. This approachis typically looked at from a blank slate, but as we continueto build, at one point there will be nowhere else to go. This will force us to go in and reevaluate what has already been built, and re-imagine the possibilities of what once was.

China’s balance of new and old has really given China a very eclectic built environment. In the bund area skyscrapers of modern steel and glass, tower over the historic fabric of the different concessions that line the Huangpu River. This contrast of what has been preserved, compared to what has been newly imagined and conceived creates this beautiful tension that China is facing today. China is a country with immense amount of culture and tradition, especially Shanghai. Time has been one of the most beautiful artists, and Shanghai’s multitude of layers has been its creation. In many ways Shanghai’s built environment is a visual timeline of Shanghais history and architectural influences.

This is the current situation, but as China continues to push forward on their economic binge, the past may no longer be as significant. History may not be able to produce the $$$ that is in developers eyes. The government in China is still the owner of the land, but has started a new leasing strategy that allows selected developers to lease the land for about 70 years. The government requires the piece of land to perform within three years of the lease, which pressures developers to build, and build quickly. Performance typically comes in the form of $$$, and the easiest way to make $$$ is by leasing out as many spaces feasibly possible. With this approach older fabric has been “carpet bombed”, and redeveloped as monotonous housing towers, shopping malls, and commercial centers. This new trend has already started to create an over saturation in the market, and as the government leases out more land, the fabric starts to become a homogenous high-density jungle.

The interesting part of this over saturation is that it has diminished the supply of the older low-density fabric. This constant balancing act between the old and the new, has created a higher demand for older fabric, which has interestingly allowed the older fabric to be “preserved”. This fabric though is not necessarily preserved in the traditional European sense, many times it has been left alone, for the owners of the lease have realized the value of its history, and have inflated the value too high for developers to see any benefit. The over inflated price has created a stagnant condition for the fabric, which has allowed it to deteriorate over time. This old courtyard typology has also been segmented up into many different spaces, to lease out low-income units. The irony of the situation, really creates this very beautiful, but conflicting condition of preservation.

This event starts to question the importance of preservation within a city. Looking at historic European cities, we see the extreme side of preservation. This mentality of keeping the old has allowed the cities to become figuratively frozen in place, as time continues onward. This condition has stunted cities growth, and ability to modernize and reinterpret urbanization.  Aldo Rossi questions what is the real benefit and understanding of the existing tangible. In Architecture and the City he comments, “In an urban artifact, certain original values and functions remain, others are totally altered; about some stylistic aspects of the form we are certain, others are less obvious. We contemplate the values that remain— I am also referring to spiritual values—and try to ascertain whether they have some connection with the building’s materiality, and whether they constitute the only empirical facts that pertain to the problem. At this point, we might discuss what our idea of the building is, our most general memory of it as a product of the collective, and what relationship it affords us with this collective.”  Shanghai is a perfect precedent for this confliction. On one side of the argument, Chinese mentality questions what is the true value of the building as an object itself? There is more importance in the location, rather than in the object. The various European influences, demonstrates the importance of the building’s materiality and face, which gives a certain character to the various concessions.

In my opinion there is value in both, and a balancing act has to be played. To preserve the city in its current state, is denying its opportunity to become something even greater. On the other hand history provides a sense of identity and culture. Shanghai’s current balance has allowed the city to become an eclectic combination of old and new, giving it a truly unique diversity that is stripped from many cities. Its ability to be modern, and still posses traits of its past, is a unique balance that cannot come from instant cities. While Shanghai continues to push forward, it would be a real shame for Shanghai to loose its older fabric and redevelop more of the same, for the beauty is in the layers.

Ross Renjilian

 

Filed under: Aldo, Architecture, bombing, carpet, character, China, development, Fabric, Identity, new, old, preservation, Renjilian, Ross, Rossi, Shanghai, Urbanism, , ,

Flexible Urbanism

The alarm rings, I start my day with a shower, followed by a walk to the metro station. Afterwards I pick up my latte from the local Starbucks, a sandwich from the shop down the street, and I sit down and start my work for the day. After settling down in Shanghai, I have started to come into a more structured lifestyle. After exploring the city for a couple of weeks, I have found things I like and don’t like, and places where I feel at ease. What is interesting is that even in a foreign country I have been able to find comfort with a schedule.  By following my schedule, I have found my own unique locations, and nodes within a city.

Finding these nodes provide great comfort and belonging especially in Shanghai, one of the largest cities in the world. Nodes are what allow the mega metropolis to become smaller, not necessarily talking in a physical sense, but rather in a mental sense. These nodes provide reoccurrences that start to become habitual. Reoccurrences like pushing my way into the subway train, recognizing menu items, and coffee house baristas memorizing my drink order (even in Shanghai, I know I have a problem). Similar characters start to show up in my daily narrative, like the girl who always sits in the corner, or the guy with the brief case who passes me on the street. By starting to create my own routine, my narrative starts to be played out within the city, I have started to realize other’s habitual patterns as well.

Habitual patterns start to become constant inputs. By tracking the quantitative data such as the number of people on the subway, and comparing this information with a timeline, the complexity of the urban fabric can really start to be picked apart layer by layer. As technology gets stronger, our ability to analyze habitual patterns becomes more sophisticated. With better understanding of movement and patterns, a city that can react and respond to our various inputs, doesn’t sound to ridiculous. For example, looking at street traffic, typically there is the same number of lanes on both sides of the highway, but many times both sides are not fully utilized at the same time. Rush Hour typically creates heavier traffic congestion going into the city in the morning hours, and leaving the city in the evening hours. A response to this could be flexible highway lanes that allow change in traffic flow direction at different hours.

This understanding of synchronized movement becomes an essential factor for understanding a cities urban fabric. The city is not only the physical built environment and occupation of people, but it also consists of moving through the spatial construct and moving through time itself. Currently urban design and the built environment has become a very rigid understanding of solid and void. This relationship has given character to many different cities, and has been the initial stages of defining our metropolises in order to deal with stasis and mobility. This idea is further analyzed in walking in the city, where the article starts to analyze how the built interacts with these patterns of human interaction, “Your path in a city is controlled by the cities order. Whether be through streets that are layered in an organizational grid, or even the negative spaces created by this grid pattern, in some way or another the urbanism organizes people”. With populations on the rise, in most major cities, and China in specific, we have to start to analyze how cities can be better organized, or more efficiently planned for people’s interaction with the built fabric.

Through past analysis of major urban morphology, one way that cities dealt with population increases was by building upward. New York and Chicago were the first cities to really start to explore the potentials of verticality with the skyscraper. These giant towers of stasis started to contain the expanding population, and found a way to combat sprawl with density. This has started to become one of the major problems with moving around the city, because we have vertically stacked the nodes within the city, but have constrained the means of moving from node to node. As these towers empty out at the end of the day, people flood the streets in a hurry to get to their next location, and as mentioned earlier everyone is always seeking location. Since the location has the ability to be rented, there is more emphasis on how the location is built rather than investing in the means of getting to that location.

In order for density to become a viable and sustainable model, the numbers have to be put into consideration, and the city has to become more flexible. The traditional model of the ground plane being the sole provider for transportation is simply just not going to be enough infrastructure to support the vertical density being sought out by rapidly developing countries. Cities need to advance their spatial understanding, and analyze how layering could really start to promote better fluid circulation. By habitual patterns analyzing and parametrically designing the built environment, the city will be able to respond and react to its occupants various inputs. With effort, the urban environment can start to not only become the container of people; rather it could take a more active role with the ever-increasing demands of its occupants. When the city starts to respond to its people the idea of a living city starts to come into play, and in my opinion will become the future of urbanism. We are not just talking about flying cars anymore, what we are talking about is a city that can morph and respond as a flexible solution to its users.

Ross Renjilian

Filed under: Architecture, City, Flexible, Growth, Habitual, Infrastructure, patterns, population, Renjilian, Ross, Urbanism,

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AAU FALL 2013:

University of Southern California
School of Architecture
Asia Architecture and Urbanism
Study Abroad Program

Director:
Andrew Liang
Instructors:
Bu Bing
Steven Chen
Yo-Ichiro Hakomori
Andrew Liang
Yuyang Liu
Neville Mars
Academic Contributors:
Thomas Chow, SURV
Bert de Muynck, Movingcities.org
Manying Hu, SZGDADRI, ITDP, Guangzhou
Clare Jacobson, Design Writer, Editor, Curator
Laurence Liauw, SPADA, Hong Kong
Mary Ann O'Donnell, Shenzhen Noted, Fat Bird, Shenzhen
Paul Tang, Verse, Shanghai
Li Xiangning, Tongji University, Shanghai
Students:
Daniel Aguilar
Hong Au
Michael den Hartog
Caroline Duncan
Nefer Fernandez
Christian Gomez
Isabelle Hong
Jin Hong Kim
Ashley Louie
Javier Meier
Paula Narvaez
Ashlyn Okimoto
Tamar Partamian
Samuel Rampy
Luis Villanueva
Krista Won
Tiffany Wu