letter from Kristina

i
The first question is very difficult to answer.
There has been a debate about planning in general, if any urban planner is
actually able to design urban environment
as the inhabitation of such a space affects the urban environment and its
character essentially.
I think that an urban planner can create the basis for potential usage of a
space.
What I find while I’m researching the West End is that there isn’t really a
‘good’ and ‘bad’,
potentially successful design rather depends on the thoughtfulness in the
composition of different spaces which then form one whole.

– A street would be so boring, if the street space would be the same all way
through.
Walking through a city should be comparable with a movie > there must be
sequences of rising tension and relaxation, points of friction…
(Did you have time to take a look at the book “Great Streets”? It just comes
to my mind again.
If you don’t have the chance to, let me know, and I can scan some pages for
you.)
Let me try to list parameters I’m aware of as being important:

– the site, its history, its existing meaning for the city network as a
connector, a magnet,
as a point of orientation, a pivotal point …
(see also Kevin Lynch, “The Image of the City” In this book he talks about
different functions, which objects in the urban realm can have and
how they influence the inhabitant’s perception.)
– demographics, people living in the city, or the part that’s about to be
redesigned, will they be able to stay? who are you designing for?
– the getting to and getting away from places > street space > second
question

I might add some more later on.

ii
The second question is something the Situationists International tried to
answer and beyond,
they were concerned to actually react to what they found and interact with
the city.
I don’t know how far Nicolas and you already got into this.
Maps will tell you hardly anything about the street space. When you walk
through a network of
movement space the following things might influence its appearance:
– the depth/transparency of the street space > the facades of the adjacent
buildings, the multiple layers of trees,
bushes define the street space and create a certain degree of depth. The
deeper a space the more it engages with the street itself,
the more it encourages the street inhabitant to engage with it.
– the permeability of the street space’s walls/the facades. This describes
in how far the surface separating the street from the spaces behind its
walls
allows the street inhabitant to interact with these spaces.
The painting ‘Nighthawks’ by Edward Hopper is an example for a very high
degree of permeability and transparency. Here the facade is so permeable,
that the bar actually becomes part of the street space and influences its
appearance essentially; it illuminates the street, it is the street.
– the inhabitants of various sequences
– street activity, which is close to the demographics > Davie St in
Vancouver is known for its huge amount of gay bars, clubs…
the street is vibrant at any time of the day, a great atmosphere
– the popularity of streets, the durability of stores, which affect the face
of the street
– you might get information about the history of the city through: the age
of trees, the age of buildings, though there exist maps, which tell you this

iii
Concerning the third question I’d like to refer to the first one so far. If
I only knew… : )

iv/v
To the urban planner it is very important to be in direct contact with the
residents of the neighborhood he’s working with.
Design reviews and podium discussions are quite common here in the North
West.
I remember I saw a scheme of neighborhood involvement in the design process
in one of the City of Vancouver’s urban planning reports.
I might be able to find it again. Basically, in every design phase the
planner worked together with the neighborhood.
I need to do some more research on this.

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