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Streets as Places - Project for Public Spaces
Quotes and pics about urban planning!
Unlike like Emperor Kuzco, I was actually born with an innate sense of direction. If you’re like me, and you use the Sun to navigate, you probably appreciate cities with gridded street plans that are oriented in the cardinal directions. If you know that your destination is due west, even if you hit a dead end or two, you’ll be able to get there. However, not all urban planners settled on such a simple layout for road networks. For some developers, topography or water may have gotten in the way. Others may not have appreciated the efficiency of the grid. This visualization assesses those road networks by comparing the relative degree to which they are gridded.
To generate the graphic, I first calculated the azimuth of every road in ten counties (plus one parish and D.C.). I tried to choose consolidated city-counties to keep the focus on urban centers, but for larger counties, I opted not to clip the shapefile to the city boundary. All calculations were made in a sinusoidal map projection using the central longitude of the area of interest. I then graphed the angles on rose diagrams (wind roses) using bins of 5° to show relative distributions for each area. The plots were scaled such that the maximum bar height was the same on each rose. To ensure rotational symmetry in the plots, each azimuth was counted twice: once using the original value and once using the opposite direction (e.g., 35° and 215°). As such, all streets, regardless of one-way or two-way traffic, were considered to be pointing in both directions.
The plots reveal some stark trends. Most of the counties considered do conform to a grid pattern. This is particularly pronounced with Chicago, even though much of Cook County is suburban. Denver, Jacksonville, Houston, and Washington, D.C., also have dominant grid patterns that are oriented in the cardinal directions. While Philadelphia and New York are primarily gridded, their orientations are slightly skewed from the traditional N-E-S-W bearings. Manhattan is particularly interesting because it has a notable imbalance between the number of streets running the width of the land (WNW to ESE) and the length of the land (NNE to SSW). New Orleans and San Francisco express some grid-like forms, but have a nontrivial proportion of roads that are rotated in other directions. Downtown Boston has some gridded streets, but the suburban grids are differently aligned, dampening the expression of a single grid on the rose diagram. Finally, the minimal geographic extents of the grids in Charlotte and Honolulu are completely overwhelmed by the winding roads of the suburbs, resulting in plots that show only slight favoritism for certain street orientations.
If you want to see more detail, a full-resolution version of this graphic can be downloaded here:
Script for azimuth calculation: http://www.ian-ko.com/free/free_arcgis.htm
Kevin Lynch. We learnt a lot about him in school. His thoughts on urbanism and the way people perceive their cities was something that was rammed down our throats as students. So it only felt natural to pass the buck and introduce a small part of his book to some lucky geography students at the…
Photo by ruffin_ready/Flickr.
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF CITIES: Neuroscience and urban planning
More than three decades ago, New York City asked pioneering urbanist William Whyte to unravel the mysteries of public space. Why do some such spaces attract crowds of happy visitors while others remain barren and empty?
Conducted with stopwatches, time-lapse videography, and simple paper charts, Whyte’s research was a spectacular success. Based on this findings, he made a series of common-sensical and easily implemented recommendations, which the city soon incorporated into its municipal construction codes.
Whyte suggested that the way to build a psychologically healthy city lay in careful observation, collection of clear data, and willingness to challenge preconceptions. Whyte’s book on The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, and the short film based on this work, remain fresh and insightful today. They still are required reading and viewing for any student of urban life.
If Whyte’s fundamental guidelines for urban field research remain current, it is also true that new technologies are now available to those who study the workings of the urban realm. Now we can go well beyond simple observations of the overt behavior of city dwellers. We can look inside the bodies and minds of those who inhabit urban spaces.
To explore the old and new techniques of urban field research, see this article from The Guardian, which includes a short video of innovative urban methodologies.
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- The city as interface, by Martijn de Waal
- Week picks #20
- The not-so-new science of cities
- Entonces y ahora: la ciudad en el tiempo
- La vida social de los pequeños espacios urbanos en la era de internet: no estamos tan solos
- Fake London underground signs
- Smart city and its discontents
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- Adhocism. The Case for Improvisation (book)
- La ville intelligente est déjà là! - Featured on RSLN, Regards sur le Numérique
Built for over a million people, the city of Ordos was designed to be the crowning glory of Inner Mongolia.
Doomed to incompletion however, this futuristic metropolis now rises empty out of the deserts of northern China. Only 2% of its buildings were ever filled; the rest has largely been left to decay, abandoned mid-construction, earning Ordos the title of China’s Ghost City.
Last year I travelled to Inner Mongolia for myself, to get a closer look at the bizarre, ghost metropolis of Ordos… and the experience, as I would discover, was far stranger than anything I could have prepared for.
THE GHOST TOWN OF INNER MONGOLIA
China’s property market is in a strange place. With a population reckoned at 1,351,000,000 and rising fast, the resultant boom in property development has led to scores of new-made millionaires and a rapidly growing elite class; at the same time however, analysts fear that this property bubble is set to burst.
The country itself owes coming on for a trillion dollars in debt. Meanwhile, a billion people are waking up to the possibilities of fast cars, smartphones, broadband Internet and credit cards.