PROBLEM NUMBER ONE: GROWING MEGACITIES
Every week the megacities of the world increase by one million of inhabitants!
The Habitat II Conference in Istanbul showed that
The report describes many mechanisms that have gone out of control and hints to frightening increases of poverty, drug abuse and criminality in these cities.
- in 1950 there were only 2 cities in the world with more than 8 million inhabitants (New York, London).
- In 1995 there were 22 (Tokyo: 26,8 millions)!
- And in the year 2015 there will be 33 megacities most of them over 10 millions. 11 of them will have more than 20 millions.
Architecture and urbanism have no scientific research. Professional decisions are widely based on a high degree of opportunism.
- Why do modern cities produce social unrest?
Maybe engineers are faster in catching up with urgent problems!
- Maybe architects and urbanists should start to speak about problems in their domains,
- otherwise they might become more and more an outdated professional minority (In France only 1% of built substance designed by licenced architects).
Will our cities be saved by "urban engineers" whose views on factual complexities are not blocked and blinded by the 'orchid-complex' (or, the 'postmedieval creator myth'; see below).
- At the beginning of the 90ies the ETH Zurich created a radically new type of engineering: "environmental natural sciences".
- Basic for this new 5-years- course were most recent insights into the high complexity of environmental problems, which simply could not be handeled by interdisciplinary groups of highly specialised peoples anymore, and which, in addition, often showed great lacks of coordination. Thus the educational program emphasises pluridisciplinary outlooks.
- Besides engineering, also natural sciences and the humanities are taught.
- Important is the pragmatic study of complex systems and projects, e.g. recently a case study "construction and environment":
- the beginning of "urban engineering"?
THE LACK OF URBAN ONTOLOGICAL CENTRALITY IN MODERN CITIES
Modernism never managed to create "high value centrality" in the social and spiritual sense.
Urban ontological value centrality can not simply be designed with pencils. It must first be researched and studied in its anthropological dimensions:
- In rural areas - at first in Europe, later in other cultures - modernism - instead of developing its own, selfconsciously modern network - used the agrarian settlement structure (of basically neolithic origins and with entirely different functions!). It used its traditional central value-complex, but superposed its homogenous space-pattern over its traditional path-system and consequently grew cancerously in its surroundings, following its own chaotic conditions.
- Where modernism was related to existing historical cities it never could compete with the centres in regard to public acceptance. It had to hide behind the historical facades or adapt to them. In the outskirts it remained chaotic and marginal.
- Imagine Paris today with Le Corbusier's Paris-plan realised! A deadly desert. No tourists to Paris anymore.
- Brasilia, and particularly Chandigarh, both cases where modern cities were designed and erected on virgin lands are a clear failure. They are felt as strong manifestations of a second wave of >architectural or urbanistic colonialism< and are - at least in Chandigarh - not accepted by the local inhabitants.
Note, that one of the most important pre-modern structural principles of architecture and urbanism, the "value focussed axis", quasi the 'cell' of architecture par excellence (access-place-scheme), was wiped out by modern space concepts.
- How do values develop in settlements and cities and how are these values related to architecture and urban spatial organisation?
- 'La Défence' in Paris profits to a great extent from its present related end-position on the axis which is focussed on the Louvre. Beyond the doubts about its gigantomania: an age-old urbanism which integrates history into space.
SPACE, AN ENORMOUS PROBLEM
By adapting to technology and industrialisation, architecture and urbanism unconsciously introduced the homogenous space concepts of mathematics, physics and astronomy.
Studies into the anthropology of space show that this change of space concepts was a tremendous transition which required a high degree of adaptation for countless millions of peoples.
- Man is dealt with like a particle in physics, an impersonal unit in the universe.
Modernism dissolved this very ancient pre-modern space and orientation system which
- According to O. F. Bollnow's anthropology of space (Man and Space, 1963) premodern space and architectural form were organised according to complementary or polar principles.
- This system provided a complex set of complementary categories which structured the environment in close relation to human conditions.
- Vertical elements like doors, gates, facades, and horizontal structural principles, like >value focused axis< and other complementary units were at the same time essential reference points in the human orientation system.
- was not void but related to substance
- was not homogenous in value, but heterogeneously valued
Through its polar structure premodern space formed a cognitive system of micro-, meso- and macro-cosmic analogies which was the symbolic metalangage of premodernism. This was put away with by the homogeneous space concept and functionalism.
- ontological value-focusses on various levels (dwelling, settlement, town, city) were dissolved.
- Gates, doors, windows, façades lost their vertical and horizontal polar quality, their model character as harmony of opposites and thus also their essence as points of orientation and identification.
- Space lost its capacity for social control. The 'value focused axis' which was common in all important types of buildings (church, school, public halls, theatre, court, dwelling, individual room) and thus formed the popular scale for space evaluation (and spatial behaviour) was dissolved in favour of functional arrangements.
- Public space was dynamised to a high degree and thus depersonalised, devalued in its complementarity to private space.
Note that in this context the Barcelona Pavillon of Mies van der Rohe can be taken as a symbol of the dilettantic and disastrous destruction of age-old human systems of space by modernism!
- Space was interpreted as a fluid of continuous space -> Barcelona Pavillion (Mies van der Rohe).
Nota bene: the introduction of the homogenous concept of space is probably one of the main reasons why cities grow out of control today: we are measuring space on earth subconsciously with the scale of the universe!
- Assertion: There is a direct relation between modern social problems in urban agglomerations and the space concepts used by modern/ postmodern architecture and urbanism.
SCALE: THE LOSS OF THE HUMAN DIMENSION
The introduction of technology and industrialisation changed the scale of buildings. The human dimension is lost.
The architect is a prisoner of his own professional milieu and does not realize how brutal his buildings may hit ordinary laics, particularly if their experiences are closely related to rural dimensions (immigrants from rural villages of any close or distant culture).
- Robert Gutman (1988) relates the increasing of scale of recent modern buildings to rising costs for centrally located sites. "The size characteristics of the buildlings constructed recently derive in part from the escalating value of land, which makes it economically profitable to construct buildings on certain urban sites only if every dollar of real estate value can be squeezed into and over them."
- "The technological feasibility of tall buildings is, in turn, a major factor behind the rise in land values."
- "New technologies and materials that make it possible to construct tall structures or span wide distances also contribute to the bigger scale of buildings of other types."
Modern urban planning mainly follows economical criteria, available lands, technology, infrastructure and costs of communication and mobility.
Modern architecture and urbanism may have disastrous impacts on social networks developped locally over long times.
- Social ties are secondary or tertiary factors and are left to the public and its adaptive strategies.
- Singapore is a good example. The Anglo-Saxon concept of a "Garden City" wiped out traditional Chinese districts with their close web of greater families, local cult festivals etc..
- Now Chinese of Singapore might tell you with great resignation: " My mother lives 7 miles in the north, my sister 4 miles in the south and my elder brother 8 miles in the west, my two younger brothers live 5 miles in the east. We meet only very rarely. Our age-old fmily structure is destroyed.
- As Lévy-Strauss showed in the case of a Bororo-village, changing the spatial organisation of a traditional environment can imply the total uprooting of its population.
Assertion: Modern cities create social unrest. Reason:
- the pace of industrialised transformation exceeds the human capacity for adaption to new structural conditions.
ARCHITECTURE, URBANISM: THE TOPOLOGICAL QUESTIONS
Environmental planning realises more and more that its intentions of protecting the environment are very limited by conventional systems of law which emphasise the protection of individual rights on land (See: Godden 1996)
If we assume that man in his relation to space is still a "territorial animal" (Ardrey: The territorial Imperative)
- The question is: "Can we develop a ...more environmentally responsive legal system?" (Godden 1996)
- "Nature is not regarded as having any rights which could be protected by the legal system. Rather, nature has the status of property and is only protected as a concomitant of the protection afforded to economic interests." (Godden 1996)
He excludes the essential conditions of his work: to have impacts on the structure of the territory on which he builds and on the design of the environment.
- then the architect is only a patch-worker.
Not being familiar with the "anthropology of territoriality", he lacks the essential arguments to create humane environments with his buildings and urban planning decisions.
PLANNING IN THE THIRD WORLD
Habitat Research shows clearly, that what religion calls >primitive religion< (and >myth<) was essentially a land protecting system in its function similar to modern constitution.
Unfortunately cultural anthropologists are not much interested in the 'anthropology of territoriality' and consequently the urbanist or architect can not be blamed for his lack of knowledge. But,
- The continuity of territorial existence was of highest ontological priority to scriptless traditional, or 'Third World' societies.
- Our Christian missionaries called this type of ritual phenomena 'primitive religion'. By converting the inhabitants of such territories, they devalued the local territorial system, uprooted the peoples from their own culture and took over their lands, forced formerly well adapted inhabitants of rural areas into the slums of modern cities.
- Evidently, there is a direct relation with problems of the Third World cities.
Cultural anthropologists should urgently get together and scientifically reconstruct the importance of the earth- and topos-relation of man.
- he thus runs blindly into the abyss of 'Eurocentric urban planning in the Third World' creating in fact the social problems of the future. Or,
- as an architect he continues blindly building his nicely designed products on a limited piece of urban land, at the same time being part of a process which runs out of control: the cancerous growth of mega-cities.
20 PROBLEMS (continued)
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