The population of the world has been constantly increasing, according to last year’s statistics, there are nearly 80 million new residents in the world (UN, 2019). Urban planners, designers, architects and all other related professions have been creating new urban areas and even brand-new cities respond to the needs of people.
According to architect Alejandro Arevena (2014), we will have to build a city with one million population per week during the next fifteen years to provide resident for everyone. Unfortunately, the process of design is not always imaginative and original. As a result, what we have is mostly generic cities or similar environments.
When I first came to the UK, I found interesting that the urban areas full of redbrick single-family houses. It was a new and unique experience for me being in these places. As a new resident of the UK, I lost my interest because I started to see these similar housing areas everywhere I go and it start to became more meaningless in time. This is the reality of the world we live in, cities full of places that feel the same, presenting almost no new experience to people, and so familiar to everyone. An ocean of endless similarities in terms of Edward Relph (1976). Imagine a place that you have been there for the very first time, but you know everything about it, and you have seen everything in it.
Whenever I found myself in one of these places, they usually empty except a few people walking or driving. This is just an example from the UK, but every country substantially has the same problem in different ways. The generic cities are the universal problem of the world thanks to the modernism.
Consequently, we start losing our sense of place over time because of the mass production of urban areas. According to Canter (1977) drawing on Relph’s (1976) work, physical attributes, activities and conceptions are the components of place.
These components and the relations among them constitute the sense of place therefore the identity of place according to Canter (1976). And trying to create an identity starting from physical attributes does not usually work for instance; the Chinese ghost towns and housing areas of New Islington in Manchester. Physical attributes of a place are obviously not enough to constitute the sense of place without the other two components.
It can be said that the design without harmony with activities is just a decoration. New Islington is maybe looking different in a good way than the other housing areas, but it is not working differently than others. Kevin Lynch (1984) uses the term fit as a design principle to explain the importance of the relation of form and activities. According to Montgomery (1998), the fit is formed by different types of physical attributes and various activities.
In historic cities, the physical environment was shaped by everyday life over the years, but nowadays we don’t have that much time to build cities. We need to respond quickly to people’s needs. In order to create successful places for people, we have to understand the rhythms of everyday life. Copenhagen is a good and relatively new example of how a city can be shaped regarding the activities. Jan Gehl’s work, an examination of daily life through activities led him to create a vital city life for Copenhagen. He understood what everyday life is in Copenhagen and what it can be. Over 30 years, Copenhagen’s physical realm was changed with an activity-based approach regarding Gehl’s work. Not only Copenhagen but also this approach was achieved successful results in Melbourne, Lyon, Strasbourg, and Portland.
Activity is related to two main concepts which these are vitality and diversity according to Montgomery (1998). When we consider the diversity in global scale it can be related to the locality. Cultural differences are based on various localities and their reflection on daily life activities, and it must be supported by design to create places that have strong identities. The information age we live in, produced and keep producing homogenise culture and similar lifestyles with the effect of technology and globalisation (Castells, 2001). In my experience, people that I have met all over the world from different nationalities share similar versions of the modern lifestyle. Similar lifestyles produce similar activities, and they demand similar physical attributes. We have to develop a new way of looking at cities methodologically in order to read the signs of localities and understand the rhythms of everyday life as soon as possible. We learned that we have limited sources in the 21st century. I believe that the prominent source is the land in this context when we consider the long term. We – urban designers – must be more careful and effective the use of this source. As a conclusion, it can be said that the practice of urban design getting more and more challenging.
Borowiecki, K. J., Forbes, N., & Fresa, A. (2016). Cultural heritage in a changing world. Springer Science+ Business Media.
Canter, D. (1977). The Psychology of Place. London: Architectural Press.
Castells, M. (2015). Space of flows, space of places: Materials for a theory of urbanism in the information age. In The city reader (pp. 263-274). Routledge.
Gehl, J. (2011). Life between buildings: using public space. Island press.
Gehl, J. (2013). Cities for people. Island press.
Koolhaas, R. (1995). The generic city (p. 1255). Sikkens Foundation.
Lynch, K. (1984). Good city form. MIT press.
Montgomery, J. (1998). Making a city: Urbanity, vitality and urban design. Journal of urban design, 3(1), 93-116.
Relph, E. (1976). Place and Placelessness. London: Pion.
https://www.greentechmedia.com (2019). 2,500 Cities Have Taken Up the Climate-Change Fight. [online] Available at: https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/how-cities-are-taking-up-the-climate-change-fight [Accessed 13 Dec. 2019].
https://www.independent.co.uk (2019). 12 Eerie Photos of Enormous Chinese Cities Completely Empty of People. [online] Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/empty-china-cities-12-eerie-photos-enormous-chinese-completely-empty-people-ghost-towns-abandoned-a7982646.html [Accessed 13 Dec. 2019].
https://www.bisnow.com (2019). Modular Housing: The Future, or a Bundle of Trouble. [online] Available at: https://www.bisnow.com/manchester/news/multifamily/modular-housing-the-future-for-the-north-west-or-a-bundle-of-trouble-98025 [Accessed 13 Dec. 2019].
https://www.architecture.com (2019). Islington Square. [online] Available at: https://www.architecture.com/awards-and-competitions-landing-page/competitions-landing-page/islington-square [Accessed 13 Dec. 2019].
https://www.mikaelstrandberg.com (2019). Looking Back: Moss Side 2013. [online] Available at: https://www.mikaelstrandberg.com/2019/04/08/mosside/ [Accessed 13 Dec. 2019].
https://www.forbes.com (2018). New Cities That Are Set to Shake up The Future for Better or Worse. [online] Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/wadeshepard/2018/03/29/5-new-cities-that-are-set-to-shake-up-the-future-for-better-or-worse/#5f8eb9d27250 [Accessed 15 Dec. 2019].
https://data.worldbank.org (2019). Population Total Statistics. [online] Available at: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL [Accessed 15 Dec. 2019].
https://www.ted.com/ (2014). My Architectural Philosophy Bring the Community into the Process [online] Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/alejandro_aravena_my_architectural_philosophy_bring_the_community_into_the_process?language=en [Accessed 15 Dec. 2019].