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 30 January 2014

新年快樂 Xin Nian Kuai Le

MA A+U enjoyed celebrating Chinese New Year, the Year of the Horse, in the studio and at the always excellent Yang Sing

Sunday 26 January 2014

Alex Lehnerer: Grand Urban Rules (2009)

Discussed by Meisoon Jumah
                                                Grand Urban Rules, published in 2009 by 010 publishers is a book about great rules according to its author Alex Lehnerer. The book is devided into two parts. First it starts with a description of the 115 rules that are in the book with illustrations by the author. Each rule is given an illustration and a reference number which can be found later in the book whenever that rule is mentioned; he also mentions the city that the rule is used in.   The second part is divided into ten chapters that deal with different aspects of the rules. By isolating the rules Lehnerer shows that rules are not tied to their context, he creates the imaginary city of Averuni for which those rules were intended to show that rules could be used universally as tools for urban design. He presents case studies from cities across the USA, Europe, and Asia to discuss rules that range from the straightforward to really bizarre, that have shaped and continue to shape our cities.   In the first chapter he starts by defining rules and how architects look at them showing that architects are not usually fond of rules as they constrain their artistic creativity; he gives examples and quotes by Louis Sullivan, Le Corbusier and Kevin Lynch. Rules also can’t be abstracted; at the same time no social fabric can manage without general rules. He mentions the political economist Friedrich Von Hayek and his opinion on rules playing a special role in our society. He also discusses how rules are adjustable and in the same time they should stay operational and are useful to a researcher engaging in analysis, to an urban planner in design, or the municipal administrator who deploys rules.The chapter ends by discussing different kinds of rules; some refer to form, some to process of creating it,while some to its subsequent performance. Some are legal minimums others are used as guides in design.   He then moves on in the second chapter to explaining the relationship between public and private interest which causes the community to create rules. Lehnerer talks about the history of American urban development which he says resembles a classical Hollywood western; first is the conquering of land/laying grids in a city then basic organisation according to ownership and use /planning or zoning while third comes the rivalry between neighbours. In the western the conflict is between the outlaw and law abiding citizen, but in urban design the conflict is between private and public interest. American urban planning is well adapted to discuss how public interests are derived from private ones and vice versa. Examples he gives in this chapter are about the complete makeover of the city in the case of Baron Haussmann’s Paris and Daniel Burnham’s Chicago, also Moses’s 8-lane Lower Manhattan Express way and Circleville in Ohio.

In the third chapter the focus is on the power which is exerted by rules, mainly in their quality of drawing sharp lines between what is allowed and what is not. He talks about the difficulty in setting thresholds and gives examples from San Gimignano, Chicago and New York.   The fourth chapter starts to show that rules are considered to be design-tools. He shows that urban planning control arises from a diversity of motivations. Then he moves on to discussing downtowns and how every self-respecting North American city needs one he gives an examples from San Francisco, Vancouver, London and New York.   Then in the fifth chapter the discussion is about how rules are considered as facilitators of freedom, and the excessive negotiating conditions caused by extreme proximity. He talks about neighbours and issues that arise from being close. He talks in detail about hedges,light and shadow and how they affect the community. As well as superordinate rules that specify how far dependancies between neighbours may go.   The sixth chapter is a case study of New York City in the 1960s. It shows that as the date flips from 1916 to 1961 the city zoning resolution was comprehensively revised for the first time.   The seventh chapter discusses for whom rules are made and where they are apply. He talks about rules introduced for their potential and special districts like Seattle’s downtown urban village, and Mulholland Scenic Parkway and Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.

In the eighth chapter are cases that demonstrate how urban elements are formed by mutual consistency, while at the same time they possess the capacity to facilitate differences to emerge from their context.   The ninth chapter explains the design-tool potential of rules. He discusses the impact of Raymond Unwin’s methodology in 20th century urban planning practices and also Midtown Manhattan.   Finally in the tenth chapter Lehnerer shows how rules function in a specific design task, he discusses a number of case studies and projects that attempt to engage in design using rule-based instruments like The city of Kaisersrot which exists as a software, the Globus-provisorium in the centre of Zurich, and Wijnhaven island between the centre of Rotterdam and the river Maas.   The book tries to show the regulations as a positive part of the planning process. It is enjoyable to read and full of examples and illustrations. We get at the end of the book a clear understanding of rules and regulations, how they are implemented and their outcome in different locations.

Tuesday 21 January 2014

The Fifth Annual MA Architecture + Urbanism Symposium: MANUFACTURINGUTOPIA


Mission Statement Is the ideal urban environment within our reach or are cities losing their humanity? On 1 May 2014 the students of the MA Architecture + Urbanism at Manchester School of Architecture will host a one day symposium to debate these issues. A range of invited speakers will contribute their knowledge in a programme of presentations and round table discussions to throw light on our future cities. Among the aspects to be discussed are:technology 
 natureQuestions to be raised include:Has the communication revolution triggered an explosion of change globally? How sustainable are current urban lifestyles? Are the developments in cities improving the liveability of them as places? How can the engineered environment preserve personal identity? Can happiness be measured? What are the benefits of architecture and urban design?For further information please follow @utopiaMCR and

Sunday 19 January 2014

Kevin Lynch: The Image of the City (1960)

Discussed by Wenhao Yue

The Image of the City is one of the most representative works of Kevin Lynch. “It is a book about the look of cities, and whether this look is of any importance, and whether it can be changed”. Lynch revealed a new approach of how to analyse and improve the visual forms of cities, which is still widely used in urban design studies nowadays.

The book has a clear structure with a straightforward topic. In the first section, new concepts of legibility and imageability are presented to lay the theoretical foundation of the entire book. Followed by that, Lynch introduced three cities as examples to reveal his outcomes of field reconnaissance, and then made comparisons between each other. In the third section, five elements and their interrelationships are summarized from previous researches which act as the core content of the book. Afterward, specific design processes and approaches are demonstrated in order to achieve strong and continuous imageability in cities and even larger metropolitan scales. Lynch pointed out the form of the metropolis is a sophisticated system rather than a static hierarchy. At last, research methodologies are presented in appendices for the readers’ reference.

In Lynch’s view, image can be explained as “a picture especially in the mind”, a sentimental combination between objective city image and subjective human thoughts. The productions of environment images are influenced by a two-way process between the observer and the observed. The observer, with great adaptability and in the light of his own purposes, selects, organizes, and endows with meaning what he/she sees. Therefore, the specific image can be totally different from the different perspective of observers, just like there are a thousand Hamlets in one thousand people’s eyes.

A well designed environment image will improve the sense of security for people and set up a harmonious relationship between the outer world and themselves. Environmental images may be analyzed into three components: identity, structure and meaning. First of all, identity defines the identification of an object which implies its distinction from other things. Second, the image must include the spatial or pattern relationship of the object to the observer and to other objects. Finally, this object must have some meaning for the observer, whether practical or emotional. A highly imageable city should be well formed, distinct and remarkable, even daily lives of people can also be redefined and given brand new meanings.

In the next chapter, three totally different cities are presented to explain Lynch’s theory. As for methodology, on the one hand, he explored the city with field research and demonstrated the image condition through unique maps. Along with this, questionnaires and interviews were given to citizens to evoke their own images of the physical environment. In my opinion, Boston represents the so called European style cities with a long history and rich culture, while this thematic vividness is typically associated with formlessness or confusing arrangements. As for Jersey City, the comment is completely negative. There is nothing but a complete confusion of an uncoordinated street system, with formlessness of space and heterogeneity of structure that mark the blighted areas of America. Los Angeles, on the contrary, is the example of newly developed cities in America, its straightforward roads and undifferentiated grid patterns are also the general models of almost all the newly-built cities in developing countries. However, except by minute attention to the distant background, it would be hard to distinguish L.A. from the centres of many other cities.

After his field reconnaissance, Lynch summarized the physical form of city image into five elements: paths, edges, districts, nodes and landmarks.

Paths are the dominant elements in urban space. Typical spatial characters, unique façade decorations are both helpful to strengthen the image of particular path. First and foremost, a path must be identifiable, and then followed by its continuity. Moreover, paths with clear and well-known origins and destinations have stronger identities and help tie the city together. After the directional qualities are determined, the next step is to consider the scale characters of paths. A series of nodes and landmarks are the most common way to achieve it. In general, it is impossible to create a clear city image while its paths remain confused and disordered.

Edges are boundaries which separate two districts with visually predominant and continuous form. While continuity and visibility are crucial, strong edges are not necessarily impenetrable. Many edges should be defined as unity seams rather than isolating barriers, some of them are often paths like highways and rivers which become effective orientation elements as well.

Districts are relatively large city areas with common characters which observers can mentally go inside of. The physical characteristics that determine districts are thematic continuities which may consist of an endless variety of components: texture, space, form, detail, symbol and so on. These components are imaged and recognized in a characteristic cluster in order to establish a striking contrast. Besides, a certain reinforcement of clues is needed to produce a strong image of an entire district.

Nodes are strategic foci which observers can enter, which are not only small points but also squares, linear shapes and central districts etc. Basically, there are two types of nodes: junctions of path and concentrations of characteristics. A successful node should have unique features inside, and intensify some surrounding characters as well.

Landmarks are reference points external to observers, which can be defined as simple physical elements may vary widely in scale. Singularity is the key physical characteristic of landmarks, creating spatial predominance through contrast with surrounding elements, making them unique or memorable in urban context.

After all, these elements can not exist individually, they must act together as a whole to reveal an integrated city image. It is a total orchestration of these elements which combine together as a vivid and dense image. Districts can be constructed by nodes, defined by edges, penetrated by paths and dominated by landmarks. Such combinations may reinforce one another, resonate so that they enhance each other’s power, or they may conflict and destroy themselves.

The image of cities is a dynamic and ever-changing object, it may differ not only by scale, but also by viewpoint, time and season. Moreover, observers are able to select, remove, and increase elements to organize their own city image either. Therefore, what we are pursuing is an open and ever-developing image rather than a fixed one-way outcome to describe city.

Nowadays, cities are growing larger and larger, but their form will not be a simple gigantic and stratified order. Instead, it will be a complicated pattern, continuous, complex and mobile. It must be plastic to the perceptual habits of thousands of citizens, open-ended to change of function and meaning, receptive to the formation of new imagery. What is more, we need an environment which is not simply well organized, but poetic and symbolic as well.

Above all, cities have specific spatial structure just like architecture, but in an enormous scale, which will take us a much longer time to perceive and understand. Urban design can be regarded as an art of time, but it differs from other time-based arts such as music. The regulations of urban design are overturned, interrupted and even abandoned with different circumstances and different people. This book is about the image of a city, about its importance, its variety and how citizens react to it. Lynch summarized the basic elements of the image and revealed an approach of how to improve it. Besides, this is also a milestone work which provides us a new perspective to read the cities we live in. From here on, subjective views of citizens and their opinions are introduced into urban design. In many ways, this book is a masterpiece highly recommendable to all architecture and urban design students.

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Confronting Urban Planning and Design with Complexity: Methods for Inevitable Transformation

AESOP - PLANNING & COMPLEXITY 12th meeting - Confronting Urban Planning and Design with Complexity: Methods for Inevitable Transformation Manchester School of Architecture 16-17 January 2014
Preliminary programme (updated at 12th of January) THURSDAY - 16th of January9:30 – 10:15 Registration/Tea/Coffee10:15 – 10:30 WelcomeGert de Roo/Ward Rauws (AESOP)Thomas Jeffries (Head of Manchester School of Architecture)/ Ulysses Sengupta10:30 – 11:30 Keynote SpeechProfessor Michael Weinstock11:30 – 12:45 Presentations A : Transformations, Challenges & DynamicsSpeaker 1: Dr. Michael Crilly (Co-authors: Mark Lemon; Tracey Crosbie)Speaker 2: Claudia Yamu (Co-author: Gert de Roo)Speaker 3: Egbert Stolk (Co-author: Juval Portugali)Discussion12:45 – 14:15 LUNCH BREAK(Presenters invited by MSA)14:15 – 15:30 Presentations B: Communities, Evolution & Organic DevelopmentSpeaker 4: Helena Farrall & Lia VasconcelosSpeaker 5: Shruti Hemani (Co-author David Rudlin)Speaker 6: Ward Rauws (Co-author Gert de Roo)Discussion15:30 – 16:45 Presentations C: Diversity, Decisions & LearningSpeaker 7: Krenz, KimonSpeaker 8: Dr. Toofan Haghani (Co-author Professor Larkham)Speaker 9: Ye YuDiscussion16:45 – 18:15 End of Day Informal DiscussionsTea/Coffee/Wine/Beer18:30 – 20:30 DINNER(Presenters invited by MSA)FRIDAY - 17th of January09:00 – 09:45 Tea/Coffee/Late Registrations09:45 – 10:00 Welcome Back (Ward Rauws)10:00 – 11:15 Presentations D : Resilience, Tactics & GamesSpeaker 10: Paulo SilvaSpeaker 11: Sharon AckermanSpeaker 12: Ulysses Sengupta (Co-author Eric Cheung)Discussion11:15 – 12:30 Presentations E: Structures, Syntax, Form & RelationsSpeaker 13: Kinda Al_SayedSpeaker 14: Carissa ChamplinSpeaker 15: Jenni PartanenDiscussion12:30 – 14:00 LUNCH BREAK(Presenters invited by MSA)14:00 – 15:15 Presentations F: Spatial Order, Emergence, Conditions & BehaviourSpeaker 16: Domenico Camarda (Co-authors Dino Borri, Maria Rosaria Stufano Melon)Speaker 17: Robert MorphetSpeaker 18: Javier Ruiz SánchezDiscussion15:15 – 15:45 AESOP - COMPLEXITY & PLANNING FULL GROUP REFLECTION15:45 – 16:30 BREAKTea/Coffee: Informal Discussions16:30 – 18:00 Round Table Event (Open to public)Professor Michael WeinstockProfessor Michael BattyProfessor Gert de Roo18:00 – 18:15 CLOSINGWhat's next (Ward Rauws)Thanks/ Closing ( MSA)18:15 – 19:45 Closing DrinksTea/Coffee/Wine/Beer

Monday 6 January 2014


Discussed by Aissa Sabbagh Gomez

First published in 1967, Kopp’s ‘Town and Revolution’ presented the first comprehensive account of the birth, development and impact of Soviet Modern Architecture from the October Revolution in 1917 to the mid 1930’s when the introduction of Stalin’ s Socialist Realism brought Modernism to a halt. In this study, Kopp presents us with extensive socio-political links to Soviet Constructivist Architecture in an attempt to “explain its roots not from sculpture and painting but form early revolutionary ideals” (Kopp, 1967), as it was often conceived at the time.   THE NECESSARY CONDITIONS: October Revolution 1917 In 1917 Russia found itself on the brink of bankruptcy. The strains of the war efforts had brought an already weak Russian Empire to near collapse. Within a year gross industrial production had decreased by over 36% whilst the cost of living increased significantly. Major food shortages, disorder in industry and transport severely affected social, economic and political relations nationwide. Civil unrest escalated into the October Revolution, forcing the abdication of the Czar and culminating on the establishment of the world's first self-proclaimed socialist state The October Revolution sought to destroy all established moral, social and political traditions related to the previous regime and to replace them with a new collective way of life. They sought to reinvent society in accordance with Marxist principles, including communal ownership of resources, universal education, income and gender equality to end global imperialism and unify town and country: “In the flames of the revolution a new moral code was forged, Marxist science was consolidated and a revolutionary art was born” However the Socialist Regime found the country vastly ill equipped to realise their ambitions.  Critical lack of resources, skilled labour, technological development, housing and a non-existent infrastructure drove the early revolutionaries to take simple but radical emergency measures: • Worker’s families were accommodated in town houses and apartment formerly occupied by bourgeoisie (one family per room) • Rents were fixed in the basis of income. • Domestic items and appliances were requisitioned and redistributed. Early revolutionaries saw city planning as key instrument for economic reconstruction and social transformation. Without delay, in 1918, the Soviet Regime issued a decree proclaiming the socialisation of all private soil in order to facilitate the construction of a ‘new way life’. A relatively new doctrine, City Planning was conceived as part of a larger overall plan.  City and National Planning Agencies were created and masterplans for the whole country were made mandatory. Preparation of masterplans was to be based on statically data and special research and open to public criticism. In Kopp’s words, these are the ‘objective conditions’ for city planning to flourish. SOVIET MODERN ARCHITECTURE: In search of the form of new way of life Before the October Revolution, Russian architecture was primarily concerned with aesthetics and classical orders. Western traditional architectural languages were adapted and amalgamated to suit trends and bourgeoisie client’s preferences. “Architecture consists not in so much in ornamenting buildings but as in building ornaments” C. Blai Post war, architects were divided by opposing doctrines to define the form of Socialist identity: • Classical Tradition or Eclecticism: believed that true culture was that of the West. • National Culture: sought for socialist ideals and national culture to be the only source of inspiration. Unlike other visual arts, architecture was relatively slow to disassociate itself form pre-war forms of expression. It was the search for a new ‘framework’ and the aspiration for a new life, the attempt to ‘reconstruct the pattern of existence’ that would reflect and enrich socialist communities that drove explosion of innovation characteristic of the years of 1925-35   Vkhutemas was established by Government decree in 1920. The Soviet equivalent to the Bauhaus, its purpose was to prepare students to apply creative skills towards the improvement of society. It employed many of the most talented artists and designers in the country, becoming a hub for innovative work and ideas with worldwide recognition.   Two architectural associations ascended to the forefront: Asnova, following formalist doctrine and the functionalist OSA. Both engaged in polemics over terminology and the claim to 'constructivism'. Asnova: In general the group concentrated on a sculptural rather than functional approach (Every building unique). Key Architects: K. Melnikov, El Lissitzky & N. Ladovsky. OSA Group: considered the first functionalist group, they prioritise social- political problems and scientific methods. Key architects: M. Ginzburg, Vesnin Brothers, Ivan Leonidov, M. Okhitovich. OSA encouraged techniques and research unknown to the USSR, including: • Prefabrication • Industrialisation • Standardisation • Public consultations   Palace of Labour: 1923 Vesnin Brothers’ competition entry (3rd prize) First building to be designed in the Soviet Union thoroughly contemporary in its conception. Ideas of Giganticism were being explored even at these early stages.   NEW SOCIAL ORDER: Social Condensers The priorities of the five year plan focussed on increasing production. In spite of the significant preoccupation to create the appropriate Socialist environment, in reality, human and social consideration carried little weight. Emergency housing measures led to unpalatable living conditions. Yuri Larin’s vision of a Soviet city had two simple aspects: work and home. He expected all inhabitants to be producers and a new built environment that promoted collectivism was key to enable his vision. OSA was the first to coin the ‘social condenser’ term: refer to specific Soviet building typologies which instrumental for socialist transformation. “New factories, new clubs, new palaces of labour should be conductors or condensers of socialist culture”. The Factory: The factory was the principal Social Condenser. This type of development was indulged with unconstraint spatial and budget considerations.  ‘The’ central element across Soviet urban landscape, factories were envisioned as absolute places of labour.   The Workers Club: A new building typology, the club was central to the socialist ideals of collective improvement of social and cultural aspects. It aimed to become a ‘social power plant for the transformation of man’.   Communal Housing (Dom Kommuna): If the club filled the need for collective improvement, the house aimed to provide individual rest. As with the club, there was not precedent to this social condenser. The idea of the Communal House, as born in the early years of the Soviet Rule, focused on: • Economy of layouts to meet housing demands • Creation of new living environment to encourage collectivism • All domestic shared activities to become communal • To free women from domestic slavery (Labour shortages, economic reasons) • To transform national way of life:  there to be no place for self-centredness and petty bourgeois. Making each individual a responsible of society. First communal house had a hotel type layout. Strategic space planning was to bestow most domestic activities to shared areas in order to reduce the GIA per occupant and accelerate collectivism across the population. Gradually, it would absorb the library, kindergarten, nursery, school, the club, recreational centres, etc. The dissolution of the family unit would be achieved.  

  Ginzburg, Narkomfin Moscow 1932. This Housing block marked transition into communal living. The Super collectivisation of life: Communal Housing Blocks steadily grew in size and number of units which ultimately led to Supercollectivism. GRAPH OF LIFE 1. Lights out.  10:00 P.M. 2. Eight hours of sleep.  Reveille.  6:00 A.M. 3. Calisthenics — 5 min.  6:05 A.M. 4. Toilet — 10 min.  6:15 A.M. 5. Shower (optional — 5 min.) 6:20 A.M. 6. Dress — 5 min.  6:25 A.M. 7. To the dining room — 3 min.  6:28 A.M. 8. Breakfast — 15 min.  6:43 A.M. 9. To the cloakrooms — 2 min.  6:45 A.M. 10. Put on outdoor clothing — 5 min.  6:50 A.M. 11. To the mine — 10 min.  7:00 A.M. 12. Work in the mine — 8 hours.  3:00 P.M. 13. To the commune — 10 min.  3:10 P.M. 14. Take off outdoor clothing — 7 min.  3:17 P.M. 15. Wash — 8 min.  3:25 P.M. 16. Dinner — 30 min.  3:55 P.M. 17. To the rest room for free hour — 3 min.  3:58 P.M. 18. Free time.  Those who wish may nap.  In this case they retire to 4:58 P.M. 19. the bedrooms. 20. Toilet and change — 10 min.  5:08 P.M. 21. To the dining room — 2 min.  5:10 P.M. 22. Tea — 15 min.  5:25 P.M. 23. To the club.  Recreation.  Cultural development.  Gymnastics.  9:25 P.M. 24. Perhaps a bath or swim.  Here it is life itself that will determine how time is spent, that will draw up the plan.  Alloted time: four hours. 25. To dining room, supper, eat, and to bedrooms — 25 min.  9:50 P.M. 26. Prepare to retire (a shower may be taken) — 10 min.  10:00 P.M.     Kuzmin offered a “graph of life” — not as an enforceable regulation (“man is not an automaton”) but as a guide for joining architectural design with the daily life in a communal situation. Melnikov proposed a garden city in which individual orchestras would drown collective snoring and induced collective sleep. URBAN PLANNING In spite the early nationalisation of land, urban solutions characteristic of socialist planning did not appear until the late 20’s. To coincide with a global concern for the de-centralisation of cities, two major schools of thought emerged in the Soviet Union: Urbaninsts:  Led by L. Sabsovich, advocated for self-contained super communes located in the countryside to supress the disparity between city and country. The main characteristics were: • A city was to be composed of immense communal housing blocks. • Housing blocks would cluster around factories. • A city has no centre, no periphery • Max occupancy 50,000 – 40,000 inhabitants Shirov’s sketch of a Garden City: Panorama of Soviet Suburbs De-Urbanists: Led by M. Okhitovich, de-urbanists went further. They rejected the idea of the city altogether and sought to scatter family units across the countryside. Using the power network as a planning grid, factories could be dispersed throughout the land. The dilution of industry would enable the dilution of housing leading to the disappearance of street clusters, squares, etc.. De-urbanists focussed on mobility and collectivism, proposing lightweight pre-fab housing with separate communal centres (To include kitchens, canteens, nurseries, workers clubs, etc) Ginzburg’s prefabricated housing units. De-urbanists also proposed four steps for the ‘socialist reconstruction of Moscow’: 1. Gradual decentralisation of industry to coincide with power grid development 2. Systematic evacuation of Moscow 3. Progressive re-settlement of population 4. Prohibition of new construction   URBANISTS v DE-URBANISTS o Centralisation o De-centralisation o Permanence o Mobility o Large community clusters o Dilution of housing o Centred around industry o Based on power grid o Radial plan o Linear plan CONCLUSION: The end and legacy of Constructivism The rise of Stalin to power in 1924, saw implementation of Socialist Realism as the only endorsed approach. Damming reports by VOPRA, culminated on the sudden death of Soviet Modernism. Constructivists were accused of neglecting specific attributes of the soviet regime, of having blind faith in the omnipotence of technology ignoring architecture artistic aspects. In a relatively short period of history, constructivist instigated significant innovation on architecture and urban planning worldwide. Key figures to International Modernism, such as Groupius and Le Corbusier, maintained prolific exchange of ideas with OSA, Asnova and Vkhutemas throughout this period. The revolutionary society provided an utopian context free of the academism that, at the time, hindered the implementation of modernism in the West. The result was an undeniable cross-influence between the two sides. In some instances, Soviet innovation preceded that of the West.  
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