The MA Architecture + Urbanism course is the Manchester School of Architecture's taught postgraduate course which conducts research into how global cultural and economic forces influence contemporary cities. The design, functioning and future of urban situations is explored in written, drawn and modelled work which builds on the legacy of twentieth century urban theory and is directed towards the development of sustainable cities.

Thursday 29 March 2012

CONSUMED: 2012 MA A+U Symposium

We are pleased to announce that tickets for the 2012 MA A+U Symposium to be held at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester on 3 May 2012 are now available to purchase at the MMU online store

Follow the Symposium blog and twitter sites

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Kevin Lynch: The Image of the City (1960)

MA A+U student Pablo Agustin Estefanell has published his review of Kevin Lynch's seminal urban design book The Image of the City on his new blog

Pablo's blog also contains a record of his wider design research produced during his time with us in Manchester and links to his portfolio.

Friday 16 March 2012

Jane Jacobs: The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961)

Reviewed by Damien Woolliscroft

‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’ is the first of several books by writer and activist Jane Jacobs. Upon publication in 1961, the book received mixed reviews, many of which disregarded Jacobs’ ideas because of her lack of a professional architectural or planning qualification. Jacobs’s research was undertaken by analysing the districts and neighbourhoods first hand. Her home district Greenwich Village, New York is frequently referred throughout the book as it aided her ideas. Divided into four main parts, the book criticises the ideas of what cities should be like by ideologues, such as Le Corbusier and Ebenezer Howard to what they are in reality, complex organic systems.
Part One ‘The Peculiar Natures of Cities’ introduces the micro scale of Jacob’s ideas, ‘Sidewalk Safety and Contact’. The purpose of the sidewalk is not only to carry pedestrians to and from places, it is a public space in itself and for a district to be successful, pedestrians need to feel safe and secure on sidewalks with strangers. For this to happen sidewalks must have three main qualities; ‘Clear mark of private and public space; must be eyes on the street at all times and sidewalks must have users on it fairly continuously.’

Jacobs expresses the importance of local public characters in neighbourhoods, explaining that they strengthen the ‘eyes’ on the sidewalk and help form a social network, dispersing community news and connecting the local population. However, if there is a rapid change in population, the ‘eyes’ on the sidewalk are new, thus safety is jeopardised, particularly where children’s security is concerned.
Numerous issues with garden city planning are raised throughout the book. One in particular, which is the creation of child-rearing spaces at the centre of superblocks, where young children can be easily supervised. However, the design of such structures neglects the outer sidewalks as the ‘eyes’ are predominantly fixated on the interior spaces leading to a false sense of security. Jacobs describes parks as ‘volatile spaces’ and like sidewalks need ‘eyes’ and continuous usage but vast open spaces make this much more difficult to resolve. If a neighbourhood park fails to attract people, it must become a specialised park, incorporating special attractions to draw people into the space.

In Part Two ‘The Generators of City Diversity’, Jacobs discusses four conditions, which must be met in order to generate exuberant diversity. The need for primary uses, short blocks, aged buildings and sufficient concentration of people. Jacobs’s states that Primary uses i.e. work, education, museums, public buildings etc are buildings considered as anchors to a district; they attract people to a district and create secondary diversity, enterprises which thrive in response to the presence of primary uses. Each district should have at least one primary use to ensure enough activity within the district at different times.
Jacobs explains the need for aged buildings, as they ensure low rent yields, encouraging the growth of small enterprises. Furthermore, for a district to be diverse, it must incorporate a mixture of low, medium and high yield buildings. Large swatches of new construction are ineffective as only highly profitable organisations are able to afford the high overheads.

Small blocks, allow for a greater cross-use within a Neighbourhood or District as residents are able to explore streets which they would not have explored beforehand. This leads to more feasible spots for commerce due to the increased routes available for citizens.
The need for a relatively dense environment of between 100 to 200 dwellings per acre increases the number of users on the sidewalks and eyes on street. However, too dense a concentration leads to high rise housing, where sight lines are inadequate to keep the sidewalks safe and structures become standardised. On the other hand, low-density areas lead to stagnant ‘grey areas which are in danger of becoming slums.

Part Three. ‘Forces of Decline and Regeneration’ discusses the ideas on the tendency for great diversity to be self destructive where certain neighbourhoods or districts become so popular with one particular use that there is no diversity left due to the profitability of that use. Jacobs explains that problems are far more serious if this use is duplicated across districts.
Amongst other destructive natures of cities, Jacobs writes about border vacuums and the physical and functional effects they have on cities by creating boundaries, dead ends and splitting the city into small fragments. Using the West side of Central Park, New York, she states that the easiest of borders to correct are those that could encourage much greater use of their perimeters.
The ‘Urban Renewal’ slum clearance program in the late 1940’s and 1950’s was catastrophic; the programme devoured numerous neighbourhoods in an attempt to thwart slums. However, a slum cannot be replaced with high yield projects as this does not overcome problems which created the slum in the first place. Instead the slum is redistributed amongst other districts. Jacobs proposes that the key in un-slumming a slum is in stopping people leaving the slum too fast. If a sense of community is strong enough, residents will more likely stay and overtime develop their homes and neighbourhood.

In the chapter ‘Cataclysmic Money’, the author emphasises that money can only do harm when it destroys the four conditions for diversity. Jacobs explains that one of the most damaging ideas is Credit Blacklisting by lending institutions, which has severe implications on slums and their ability to un-slum as residents are unable to gain credit to start local enterprises or complete works on their homes.
The last part, ‘Different tactics’ attacks legislations within the planning department, especially low income housing schemes. The idea of separating people by income seems un-natural, generates a variety of problems, and creates issues with local enterprises as their clients may not be able to afford their products. Instead of low-income housing, Jacobs stipulates that the government should subsidise rent on private dwellings for low-income earners, thus dispersing the low-income population around the city.
Jacobs expresses her hatred for traffic arteries, parking lots, gas stations, automobiles and the toll they have on the city, particularly on the erosion of sidewalks. She acknowledges the need for cars but believes that there should be far less and those remaining should be made to work harder.

Finally, Jacobs concludes the book on the stance that cities are formed from organised complexities. These complexities are not simple but are intertwined with each other. Vertical structures oversimplify these complexities thus horizontal structures work better in city planning.
‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’ is in no doubt, one of the most inspiring urban planning texts of the 20th century. The style of writing employed by Jacobs makes the book a pleasure to read and her love for cities shines through each page. The impact of Jane Jacobs and ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’ has been profound in the architectural and urban planning world as well as New York. In 2009 a block on Hudson Street, Greenwich Village was renamed ‘Jane Jacobs Way’ in honour of the writer who offered a different way of thinking about cities.

Thursday 8 March 2012

Architecture + Urbanism recommends "Telescopic Urbanism: On Slums"

cities@manchester Inaugural Lecture
Professor Ash Amin University of Cambridge
‘Telescopic urbanism: on slums’
Introduced by Professor Nina Glick Schiller (Director, Research Institute for Cosmopolitan Cultures)

By 2030 between a third and half of the world's population will be leading a precarious, and often abject, life in the neglected urban interstices. Urban scholarship is beginning to turn to this eye-watering problem, and to questions of sustainable urban competitiveness and growth, but interestingly without referencing one to the other.  This paper claims that the 'endless city' is being looked at through the wrong end of the binoculars, with 'business consultancy' urbanism largely disinterested in the city that does not feed international competitiveness and business growth, and 'UN-Habitat' urbanism looking to the settlements where the poor are located for bottom-up solutions to human well-being.  The paper muses on the implications of such an urban optic on the chances of the poor, their areas of settlement, and their expectations of support from others in and beyond the city.  While acknowledging the realism, inventiveness and achievements of effort initiated or led by the poor, the paper laments the disappearance of ideas of mutuality, obligation and commonality that telescopic urbanism has enabled, in the process scripting out both grand designs and the duty of distant others to address the problems of acute inequality and poverty that will continue to plague the majority city.

5.00 pm Wednesday 14 March 2012
Samuel Alexander Arts Lecture Theatre, University of Manchester

Professor Ash Amin is the current holder of the 1931 Chair in Geography at Cambridge.  Previously he spent 16 years at Durham University where he was Professor of Geography and Executive Director of the Institute of Advanced Study. He is known for his work on the geographies of modern living, for example thinking urban and regional society as relationally and materially constituted; and globalisation as an everyday process that thoroughly reconstitutes meanings of the local. He has also contributed to thinking on the economy as a cultural entity, while his writings on race and multiculturalism have helped change policy work on the management of ethnic diversity. He has held Fellowships and Visiting Professorships at a number of European Universities. He has been founding co-editor of the Review of International Political Economy, and is currently associate editor of City, and on the advisory board of a number of international journals. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, Fellow of the World Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Fellow of the British Academy. He was awarded the Royal Geographical Society's Edward Heath Prize in 1998 for contributions to research on Europe. He has served on the Research Priorities Board of the ESRC and advised international organisations such as the OECD and European Commission.

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Architecture + Urbanism recommends "Circuler: Quand nos mouvements façonnent la ville"

From 4 April - 26 August the Cité de l'architecture et du patrimoine at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris will be hosting an exhibition entitled Circuler: Quand nos mouvements façonnent la ville curated by Jean-Marie Duthilleul. The exhibition is divided into 12 sequences and traces the concept of urban space, as evolving from the earliest times into the near future. The last sequences will present projects realized since the 1980’s, current forward-looking reflection and the cities that are outlined, as well as new behavior of man in movement.

Featuring in the exhibition will be this film about Rafael Moneo's Atocha Station in Madrid which was made by msa graduate Sam Chisholm

Friday 2 March 2012

AHRC Professional Preparation Masters Awards

Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) has been awarded funding through the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Block Grant Partnership (BGP) Award Scheme. The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) supports world-class research that furthers our understanding of human culture and creativity.

AHRC Professional Preparation Masters (PPM) Awards in Design
MA Architecture + Urbanism is a course which is eligible for these awards and welcomes applications. Previous recipients include Carrie Bayley and Damien Woolliscroft. Before applying for PPM Awards applicants should contact Janet Bezzant

Further details on all the studentships and application procedures are available here

Deadline 2 April 2012

Initial enquiries may be made to Eamonn Canniffe
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