Commentary

These case studies show that considerable power, financial and/or political, is required to build total urban designs on any large scale. Although such designs are easier to implement in totalitarian societies, they have been carried out in vastly different legislative, legal and administration systems. The degree of singular control over the property development and design process varies considerably from case study to case study. On one hand there are schemes such as Rockefeller Center, Brasilia and Avenue of the Victory of Socialism in which much was designated by a central authority - private in the first case, public in the latter two - without much outside interference. On the other hand Raleigh Park, although the product of one organization, was very much battered by city politics and the conflicting requirements of local community groups. There were two major designs and a number of other proposals for the Raleigh Park development. There were half a dozen for the Barbican.

The quality of the schemes described in the case studies varies considerably. Some of them, such as SUNY, Albany are regarded as 'powerful architectural statements' others less so. Many total urban designs are admired for their geometrical boldness. The buildings at Brasilia and in Chandigarh are much photographed as abstract sculptures. Such environments, however, are often devoid of the urban elements that support life generously.

Strong geometrical ideas are more appropriate in some types of developments (such as capital complexes) than in others. Powerful symbolic statements are important for they boost our self-esteem. Problems, however, can arise: (1) when the symbolic statement is perceived by people to present a poor image of them, it has negative associations and (2) when art substitutes for life, where geometrical cleverness is the prime design criterion. Both can happen more easily when design power is centralized. The lesson of Pruitt-Igoe that there is often a gulf between what politicians, developers and architects want and what people want is still to be learnt not only in the United States but elsewhere (Michelson, 1968). The French experience, for instance, is illuminating.

Val-Fourré, a banlieue, the largest of 1100 such housing estates in France, houses well over 30,000 people (28,000 officially) in 1960s and 1970s tower blocks. Located 85 kilometres (about 50 miles) from Paris, its inhabitants in 2004 were drawn from almost 30 different ethnic groups, mainly recent immigrants. Such estates may work well in China for middle-income people and are being built at varying sizes but they do not do well for socially and psychologically dislocated people with many children who have nothing to do. Val-Fourré is called a banlieue sensible (sink estate or trouble spot) or pejoratively a cité or HLM (cheap rent homes). The 23 de enero estate in Caracas, Venezuela (see Figure 3.4) consists of 30 slab blocks and is equally notorious. It is amongst many other similar estates around the world. Philadelphia alone had a dozen such large-scale housing projects. The last of them, the Martin Luther King Jr. Housing, was demolished late in 1999.

The decisions to build such housing developments were well intentioned but no public consultation, empirical information, or market forces dictated the urban design and architectural forms in which they were built. It is not only housing projects that were approached in this fashion but the problems associated with them in democratic societies were dramatic. Total urban designs can be based on consultation with the stakeholders involved. The design of the programme and housing at Trueslund demonstrated this although it could be argued that it is a deviant case both in terms of product type and size of development. It is small.

Some of the schemes included here, although total designs, rely heavily on the market to decide uses (e.g. Clarke Quay) even though the decisions to build them were public policy ones; others were centrally decreed (e.g. Brasilia and the GSFC Township at Vadodara). In the case of the Avenue of Victory of Socialism, no clear image related to reality was specified for the occupation of the buildings that line the boulevard. It was the theatricality of the setting that was deemed important. Market forces are now dictating building uses. Much is still unoccupied.

The successes and failures result not from the schemes being total urban designs but from the goals set and the nature of the programme assumed. In some cases a grand scheme does celebrate civic pride for a people and enhances their self-image. Certainly the capital complex in Chandigarh does this. In other cases it is the creators who have set out to celebrate themselves. Some schemes suffered from severe financial constraints; others were just shortsighted. In addition, all urban designs have failings on one dimension or another. It is impossible to meet all the requirements of all the people who inhabit or use, or are affected by a project equally well.

The case studies included in this chapter, although varied in nature, have at least one thing in common. Each was conceived and carried out as one project and cut from a single piece of cloth. They are total urban designs. The time taken to implement them varied but each was conceived to be completed within a short time-frame. Brasilia took only 5 years to build. When the decision-making power is centralized actions can be taken rapidly.

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

How would you like to save a ton of money and increase the value of your home by as much as thirty percent! If your homes landscape is designed properly it will be a source of enjoyment for your entire family, it will enhance your community and add to the resale value of your property. Landscape design involves much more than placing trees, shrubs and other plants on the property. It is an art which deals with conscious arrangement or organization of outdoor space for human satisfaction and enjoyment.

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