This article has become one of the classic references in the literature of the built environment and associated fields. Alexander argues that the hallmark of designed cities (Mesa City, Brasilia) is that their builders invariably gravitate to tree-structures, where all sub-units of a similar type roll-up into a single super-unit, creating an artificial and ultimately damaging simplification. He contrasts this with the structure of organic cites (London, NYC), which are organized as semi-lattices, where overlap and shared function is the order of the day.
Whenever we have a tree structure, it means that within this structure no piece of any unit is ever connected to other units, except through the medium of that unit as a whole.
High quality public space is now recognised as a central tenet in regenerating our towns and cities and in creating sustainable new communities where people want to live and work. The Quality Streetscapes Conference provided the opportunity for practitioners, academics and policy makers to discuss designing, managing and maintaining high quality public spaces.
With our cities preoccupied with the "efficient" layout of streets and the introspective solutions of modern architecture, the public realm is now defined by what is left over after vehicles and private properties have claimed their separate territories. For more than fifty years pedestrians have been at the losing end of the struggle for domain between people and cars in our modern cities. Where the public realm was once the forecourt and the backbone of our social fabric, it now plays a very small role in that regard.
Amid the roaming chickens, sheep and adventure climbing frames of the immaculate Coram's Fields in central London, it is hard not to be overtaken by a sense of relaxation far removed from the bedlam of the thick traffic and cluttered streets less than100 yards away. Not by accident was this venue chosen for the launch of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment's CABE Space unit last week.
An overview of recent and forthcoming guidance, awards and policies relating to open space and walking in urban areas. There is a buzz of discussion on every kind of public space - recreational, open, sport-related (in the expected draft revision to the existing Policy Planning Guidance, PPG 17), streets and pathways (in 'Walking in Towns and Cities', the report of the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee, 30 June 2001), and green spaces (theCivic Trust Green Flag Awards). Could, or even should, all these discrete strands be integrated, switching the focus towards the 'public realm', that cornerstone of urban design?
From an MA dissertation presented to the Joint Centre for Urban Design, OBU, September 1998. Published on RUDI on February 18, 1999.
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