In search for my artifact, a short article for the Artifact column, in the Bnieuws B’day issue.
Rehabilitation of Hartera
Only a few people live and work in Hartera. It used to be a vibrant part of the city of Rijeka where hundreds of people were flocking in and out every day. Today, this area largely abandoned. Its famous paper factory closed its doors about a decade ago and since then the area fell into decay. Nevertheless, despite its decline, Hartera is all but forgotten! On the contrary; Hartera is in the minds of many people. Locals will relate the area to its rich industrial heritage, unique buildings and great views to the hills. Some people refer to its annual music festival, current grassroots events, and emerging cultural scene. Although Hartera is known by most people, seldom it is used by many. The challenge for the public government of Rijeka and many other actors is to make this area public with respect to the multiple images people have of the site. This area can become publicly-used, not just publicly-known. A spa facility or entertainment park will not be answers for this particular side, nor will it be for example a shopping mall. Those kinds of development stimulate appropriation of the space by special target groups, blocking the way for others, and/or they change the identity of the area so drastically that people will change their perception of the area and neglect the newly developed as soon as it will becomes out of date again.
The Square and the Big Tree in Lo Uk Tsuen Village
On 24 January 2013, I was standing under a big tree on a little square in Lo Uk Tsuen (羅屋村). Its trunk was protected by a small circular stone wall and in front of it, yet still under its crown, incense was burning in a small matching stone censer. A few kids were playing, a lady was doing her laundry, and several persons passed by. It looked like the heart of one of the villages or ‘tsuens’ of Hung Shui Kiu. It also acted as its entrance as it was positioned at its edge. The houses around were extended with all kinds of annexes and extra levels. On the streets, residents appropriated space with pot plants and a variety of other things. The density was clearly quite high and the urban space felt like a living room. An old-school figure ground analyses wouldn’t give us much open space. When I walked beyond the tree, street-like corridors led me to the next tsuen. Here in Tung Tau (東頭村), built structures and urban spaces more or less looked the same, but a small monumental temple place had adopted the communal role. People sitting under a line of trees aside looked at me with questioning eyes. They scanned who I was and why on earth my students and I were making pictures of this space. Walking out again, I faced huge piles of containers, rusty remaining relics of Modern society. At its backcloth the residential high-rise of Tin Shui Wai.
There are some who glorify the state or quality of bigness. This seems to be something characteristic of the modern age – the first hosannas began to resound around the dawn of the metropolis. We see it in the writings of Louis Sullivan and in the statements made by Le Corbusier. They like buildings to be big. Bigness is their quality. The notion of ‘bigness’, as pushed forward more recently by among others Rem Koolhaas, is based on complete disconnection between the interior and the exterior. “Bigness is no longer part of any urban tissue”, he thinks. Context – the relationship with the building’s surroundings – is supposedly irrelevant. Nonsense! His theorem is contradicted by studies of existing cases. When a building exceeds a certain size and becomes a large-scale structure, public interiors are created. The increase in the number of people using both these indoors and the outdoor space links big buildings closely to their surroundings, more then do small-scale buildings, and thus far from being isolated, big buildings become more connected. In their urban environments, the interaction becomes visible and multi-level or privately-owned public space is created within big buildings. New public interiors extend the outdoor network and thereby give the building a fine-meshed structure. In essence, as the interiors become more public, the small scale is introduced into the building. The building may be big purely in terms of size, but in many ways it is quite as diverse as any part of the city.
In the city today, we meet in public atria and shop in malls, we move along covered walkways and go from street to street by taking shortcuts through the buildings of a city block. In recent decades, the amount and proportion of public space within urban buildings has steadily increased, with much of it forming part of a larger interior and exterior pedestrian network. Yet, although interior public space has become an important constituent of the contemporary city and of our urban experience, it is rarely designed as such. Prompted by this disconnection, Maurice Harteveld has followed different leads to examine contemporary urban design in relation to public interiors. Through this research, he has documented in particular the urban analyses and architectural designs of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, in which interior public space is accorded significant and multiple roles. Ideas pioneered by Venturi and Scott Brown have become absorbed within architectural practice, notably their use of the Nolli Map introduced in their 1972 study of Las Vegas. Similarly, the concept of the ‘rue interieur’ seen in their earliest projects, has matured in their later work to include an internal street imbedded in a network of urban public spaces and pathways, both interior and exterior. However, although they refer to interior public space frequently in their writing, Venturi and Scott Brown have yet to describe their views on it in any great detail; a more focused examination that the following dialogue between Maurice Harteveld and Denise Scott Brown seeks to provide.
In explorations of the notions of public space, public interiors are generally seen as undemocratic and more private spaces. This is based on the Roman distinction between publicus and privatus, but making public space, as a public case, refer primarily to res publica. – On the other hand, there is a related Roman public law that deals with the common interest of urban society, and could include cases of interior public space. Most sociological research in contemporary daily life reveals these spaces as public. For urbanism, this research can be seen as the social context, because the urbanist is primarily focused on the city: the civitas, and not the whole societas. More specifically, for urban designers who deal with public space, it traditionally means focusing on the outdoor space, and although this is almost always synonymous with the public domain or publicly owned space, I believe that public space can be more than this. For urbanism this means there is a need for new understanding and an extension of the design task..
The Department of Urban and Regional Planning of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya organized the second International Ph.D. Seminar on Urbanism and Urbanization in Barcelona, from June 27th-29th, 2005. Using the name of Urbanism and Urbanization, the seminar focused on the key epistemological issue of the interface between the ongoing processes transforming the contemporary city, the practice of “making the city” through urban design and urban planning, and the research on urbanism studying them. The presented papers showed the possible contributions that researches in urbanism can make in order to develop an urban knowledge (a set of concepts, models, devices, guidelines, design tools…) engaged with the transformation and improvement of the city and the urbanization processes. Public Interiors: Urbanism or Not? clarifies the urban design role next to the architectural design role concerning the design task of interior public space. From out of the viewpoint of public space, the design of public interiors is a dismissed task for urbanist. By systematic analysing different types of interior public spaces, such as the arcade and the mall, through time, the evolution of their different contemporary urban design tasks becomes clear. In general: If the position in the city and the urban context are highly relevant, the conclusion is that the urban design task is just as crucial. Although designing interiors is traditionally the task of architects, in the case of interior public space it is therefore high time to share that task with urbanists.
Harteveld, M.G.A.D. (2005) Public Interiors: Urbanism or Not? In: Martí Casanovas, M., M. Corominas i Ayala, J. Sabaté Bel and A. Sotoca García (eds.), II PhD Seminar: Urbanism & Urbanization, Volume I. Barcelona: ETSAB, pp. 219-230
The framework of the Urbanism & Urbanization Seminars enabled PhD candidates to present either short papers (ten-minute presentations for starting researches) or full papers, like the above (twenty-minute presentations in a plenary session) in order to be discussed and refereed. The participation of academia from universities representing very different contexts contributed to rich debates. Different universities contributed to the seminar: MIT, TU Berlin, U Girona, Princeton, U Coruña, USB Venezuela, SAD Oslo, Aalborg U, U Newcastle, UCL, UR Montevideo, UPC, KU Leuven, IUAV and TU Delft.
In October 2004, the cities of Delft and Antwerp were the scenes of the EAAE conference and the ‘European City’. This conference, organised by the Delft University of Technology and the Antwerp Higher Institute of Architectural Sciences Henry van de Velde, focused on the interaction between ‘architectural interventions’ and ‘urban transformations’, both now and in the past. The typological evolutions of the arcade and the mall exemplify this interaction and as such are put forward in the paper European Publicity, Learning From the Evolution of the Interior Public Space. They both illustrate how interior public spaces came to acquire their dualistic nature: both city and building, both urban and architectural design. By learning from their history, the contemporary design tasks of public interiors can be understood and (re)defined.
At a certain point in the evolution of public interiors, buildings can become part of the city or else parts of the city can become buildings. The result is confusion. Disciplinary borders do change, but the key force behind the current confusion is twofold: urbanism defines new types of public space while architecture defines them as new building types. It is both.
From the perspective of interior public space, the European city need not be content with enclosed autonomous projects, hence an independent architectural approach with its focus on the interior programme, climate and experience only, like in the case of some malls. This forecasts ’empty boxes’, abandoned objects, such as emerging in North America. The position in the city and the urban context are highly relevant, and thus is the urban design task just as crucial. Although designing interiors is traditionally the task of architects, in the case of interior public space it is therefore high time to share that task with urbanists. This is what we can see in the other case of arcades too.
Harteveld, Maurice (2005) European Publicity, Learning from the Evolution of the Interior Public Space. In: Claessen, Francois en Leen van Duin (eds.), The European City. Architectural Interventions and Urban Transformations. EAAE Transactions on Architectural Education No. 25. Delft: DUP, pp. 223-231
About the European Association for Architectural Education
The European Association for Architectural Education (EAAE) is an international non-profit association committed to the exchange of ideas and people within the field of architectural education and research. The EAAE aims at improving the knowledge base and the quality of architectural and urban design education. It is a bi-lingual English/French association.
Founded in 1975, the EAAE has grown in stature to become an institution fulfilling an increasingly essential role in providing a European perspective for the work of architectural educationalists as well as concerned governmental agencies.
The EAAE counts more than 100 Active Member Schools in Europe from the Canary Islands to the Urals, representing almost 5000 tenured faculty members and more than 100000 students of architecture from the undergraduate to the doctoral level. The association is building up associate membership worldwide.