Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Right To The City.

Henry Lefebvre - The French Giant.

He was a critic of disciplinary over specialization such as that between economics, geography and sociology, which 'parcelled up' the study of space. He worked on dialectics, alienation, and criticism of Stalinism and structuralism. Lefebvre wrote more than sixty books and three hundred articles.

Lefebvre defined everyday life dialectically as the intersection of "illusion and truth, power and helplessness; the intersection of the sector man controls and the sector he does not control“ and is where the perpetually transformative conflict occurs between diverse, specific rhythms: the body’s polyrhythmic bundles of natural rhythms, physiological (natural) rhythms, and social rhythms. The idea was that through auto critique, people could understand and then revolutionize their everyday lives. This was essential to Lefebvre because everyday life was where he saw capitalism surviving and reproducing itself. Without revolutionizing everyday life, capitalism would continue to diminish the quality of everyday life, and inhibit real self-expression.

Henry Lefebvre (1901-1991)
"Change life! Change Society! These ideas lose completely their meaning without producing an appropriate space. A lesson to be learned from soviet constructivists from the 1920s and 30s, and of their failure, is that new social relations demand a new space, and vice-versa."

Lefebvre’s right to the city is an argument for profoundly reworking both the social relations of capitalism and the current structure of liberal-democratic citizenship. His right to the city is not a suggestion for reform, nor does it envision a fragmented, tactical, or piecemeal resistance. His idea is instead a call for a radical restructuring of social, political, and economic relations, both in the city and beyond.

 Urban space figures are so centrally placed in the ‘Right to the City’, it is important to say a word about Lefebvre’s notion of space. He takes an extremely expansive view that encompasses much more than just concrete space. Lefebvre’s idea of space includes what he calls perceived space, conceived space, and lived space . Perceived space refers to the relatively objective, concrete space people encounter in their daily environment. Conceived space refers to mental constructions of space, creative ideas about and representations of space. Lived space is the complex combination of perceived and conceived space. It represents a person’s actual experience of space in everyday life. Lived space is not just a passive stage on which social life unfolds, but represents a constituent element of social life. Therefore, social relations and lived space are inescapably hinged together in everyday life.
Producing urban space, for Lefebvre, necessarily involves reproducing the social relations that are bound up in it. The production of urban space therefore entails much more than just planning the material space of the city; it involves producing and reproducing all aspects of urban life. For Lefebvre, then, “the right to the city is like a cry and a demand... a transformed and renewed right to urban life.”

 The right to the city involves two principal rights for urban inhabitants: the right to participation, and the right to appropriation.

The right to participation - maintains that citadins should play a central role in any decision that contributes to the production of urban space.

The right to appropriation -  includes the right of inhabitants to physically access, occupy, and use urban space, and so this notion has been the primary focus of those who advocate the right of people to be physically present in the space of the city.
David Harvey described the right to city as : -

‘The right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city. It is, moreover, a common rather than an individual right since this transformation inevitably depends upon the exercise of a collective power to reshape the processes of urbanization. The freedom to make and remake our cities and ourselves is, I want to argue, one of the most precious yet most neglected of our human rights.’

The Right to the City
should modify, concretize and make more practical the
rights of the citizen as an urban dweller (citadin) and
user of multiple services. It would affirm, on the one
hand, the right of users to make known their ideas on
the space and time of their activities in the urban area;
it would also cover the right to the use of the centre, a
privileged place, instead of being dispersed and stuck
into ghettos.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Part II - The Only Built City of Le Corbusier- 'Corbusian Era'.

The Design and Planning of Chandigarh

Le Corbusier (October 6, 1887 – August 27, 1965) will forever be known as an icon of Modernism.
'Modern life demands, and is waiting for, a new kind of plan, both for the house and the city.'
'Space and light and order. Those are the things that men need just as much as they need bread or a place to sleep.'

I have written(The Only Built City Of Le Corbusier - Part I) about the developments which occurred prior to Le-Corbusier in one of the India's earliest planned city of the independent country in my early blog posts (http://urbanfailure.blogspot.in/2013/12/the-only-built-city-of-le-corbusier.html). The next part/era, comes with LC and his team was assigned the work of planning and designing the city of Chandigarh.

After the tragic death of Nowicki, Mayer gave up the work and new face in Le Corbusier was given the opportunity to build his 'dream city'.

Le Corbusier duly considered the Mayer –Nowicki plan, but introduced several major changes. The socio-economic conditions and the living habits of the people ruled out the idea of vertical and horizontal planning.

The Team

Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret, LC’s cousin and practice partner; Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew, a British husband and wife team who had experience designing for a tropical climate from working in West Africa; and a large team of Indian architects, both new and experienced.

Le Corbusier conceived the master plan of Chandigarh as analogous to human body, with a clearly defined head (the Capital Complex, Sector 1), the heart (the City Centre, Sector 17), lungs (the leisure valley, innumerable open space, green spaces and their linkages), the circulatory system(the network of roads, the 7Vs’) and the viscera (the Industrial Area).

The concept of the city is based on four major functions : Living, Working, Care of body and Spirit and Circulation.

Residential sector constitute the living part whereas the Capitol Complex, city centre, Educational Zone (Post Graduate Institute, Punjab Engineering College, Punjab University) and the Industrial Area constitute the working part. The Leisure Valley, Gardens, Sector Greens and Open Courtyards etc. are for the care of body and spirit. The circulation system comprises of 7 different types of roads known as 7 Vs Later on a pathways for cyclists called V8 were added to this circulation system.

Concept Plan - The Grid Pattern, Factors relating the Human-Nature Relationship, the Hierarchy of Roads and the placement of things in relation with  the body of a human being

As per records, the phase-I of the master plan was up to Sector 25. Later the city was extended in the space available east of Sector 7,19 and 20 and numbered 26,27,28,29 and 30 and further towards phase II.

PLAN (PHASE I) with its green lungs, linking them in order to function the urban ecosystem efficiently and providing the inhabitants the principle of care of body and spirit.
Le Corbusier Vision for the City formation; Biological phenomena – cities also have brain,  heart, lungs, limbs and arteries like human being.

'Le Corbusier was the clearest example [of planners designing optimal cities according to so-called scientific principles]. He and other planners had a minimalist conception of human nature. A human being needs so many cubic feet of air per day, a temperature within a certain range, so many gallons of water, and so many square feet in which to sleep and work.'
Le Corbusier’s drawings clearly demonstrate the concept of relating the body to space. His visual perception was one of his biggest strengths.
I’m here comparing the principles of the two legends Le Corbusier’s with that of the principles given by C.A.Doxiadis for the discipline of Ekistics. They have got many similarities especially in the case of planning of Chandigarh by Le Corbusier.They are compared one by one in the following parts.

Derivation between the Elements used by L.C. in the planning of Chandigarh and the elements discussed by C.A. Doxiadis in the ‘five elements of Ekistics.’
The comparison between the two has produced some interesting and valuable things which could form a platform for the changes in the approach followed by the contemporary urban planners for planning the various urban spaces. It has become a pretty long exercise though and hence will be back with the third instalment of ‘The Only built City Of Le Corbusier’ soon.
“We are fond of the crowd and the crush because we are human beings and like to live in groups. In such a town as I have outlined, with a denser population than that of any existing cities, there would be ample provision and opportunity for close human contact; there would be trees, flowers and spreading lawns.” - LC

 The Bigger Picture of Chandigarh

The era which followed the Corbusian era saw many developments and changes in the policy and principles outlined by Le Corbusier for the city's development in accordance with the human values and human-nature relationship. The Bigger Picture which will discuss the city planning of Chandigarh in the years after Le Corbusier, will be the preceding segments  of the blog which will be followed by 'The Utopia of Modernity : Zlin in the Czech Republic which holds the vision of Tomas Bata - the founder of the Bata Shoe company which was heavily influenced by the works of Ebenezer Howard and his Garden City Concept. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Curious Case Of Ekistics.

The Replacement Or Merging Of The Ekistics With The Urban Planning. The Study Of Human Settlement Is A More Appropriate  Approach And Wider Discipline With Respect To The Designing Of The Cities/Urban Spaces.

" In order to create the cities of the future, we need to systematically develop a science of human settlements. This science, termed Ekistics, will take into consideration the principles man takes into account when building his settlements, as well as the evolution of human settlements through history in terms of size and quality. The target is to build the city of optimum size, that is, a city which respects human dimensions. Since there is no point in resisting development, we should try to accommodate technological evolution and the needs of man within the same settlement. "

We cannot acquire proper knowledge about our villages, towns and cities unless we manage to see the whole range of the man-made systems within which we live, from the most primitive to the most developed ones - that is, the whole range of human settlements. This is as necessary as an understanding of animals is general is to an understanding of mammals - perhaps even more so. Our subject, the whole range of human settlements, is a very complex system of five elements - nature, man, society, shells (that is, buildings), and networks. It is a system of natural, social, and man-made elements which can be seen in many ways - economic, social, political, technological, and cultural. For this reason only the widest possible view can help us to understand it.
There is a need for a science dealing with human settlements, because otherwise we cannot view these settlements in a reasonable way. Is such a science possible? The answer can be given in two ways. First, by observing that, in some periods in the past, people must have had such a science, which was probably written down only in ancient Greek times (in documents by the architect and engineer Vitruvius). Otherwise, how did people create cities that we still admire? Second, we are now convinced that man, in creating his settlements, obeys general principles and laws whose validity can be demonstrated. These principles and laws are actually an extension of man's biological characteristics, and in this respect we are dealing with a biology of larger systems.
It can be argued perhaps that we are dealing with a phenomenon with a ridiculously short life - some tens of thousands of years, as compared with billions of years for the phenomena of microbiology and even longer periods for the phenomena of chemistry and physics. However, there is no way of proving that a certain period is too short, or long enough, for the development of principles and laws. In this case, it is long enough to convince us of certain truths.
To achieve the needed knowledge and develop the science of human settlements we must move from an interdisciplinary to a co - disciplinary science; making links between disciplines is not enough. If we have one subject we need one science, and this is what ekistics, the science of human settlements has tried to achieve. It has began to evolve, may be by different names and approaches.

The three dimensional grid formation as
the resultant of the Ekistical Study.

The Ekistics works through matrix system. The inter-relations within the sector/segments relating the five principles which are discussed below are studied and statistics is collected regarding the same. The approach proves beneficiary as the combination of the five principles has thus been done by Doxiadis, that it covers almost all the things needed for the efficient functioning of the human-nature relationship.

The Principles Of Ekistics

1.      The first principle is maximization of man's potential contacts with the elements of nature (such as water and trees), with other people, and with the works of man (such as buildings and roads). This, after all, amounts to an operational definition of personal human freedom. It is in accordance with this principle that man abandoned the Garden of Eden and is today attempting to conquer the cosmos. It is because of this principle that man considers himself imprisoned, even if given the best type of environment, if he is surrounded by a wall without doors. In this, man differs from animals; we do not know of any species of animals that try to increase their potential contacts with the environment once they have reached the optimum number of contacts. Man alone always seeks to increase his contacts.

2.      The second principle is minimization of the effort required for the achievement of man's actual and potential contacts. He always gives his structures the shape, or selects the route, that requires the minimum effort, no matter whether he is dealing with the floor of a room, which he tends to make horizontal, or with the creation of a highway.

3.      The third principle is optimization of man's protective space, which means the selection of such a distance from other persons, animals, or objects that he can keep his contacts with them (first principle) without any kind of sensory or psychological discomfort. This has to be true at every moment and in every locality, whether it is temporary or permanent and whether man is alone or part of a group. This has been demonstrated very well, lately, for the single individual, by anthropologists such as E. T.  Hall and psychiatrists such as Augustus F. Kinzel, and by the clothes man designs for himself, and it may be explained not only as a psychological but also as a physiological problem if we think of the layers of air that surround us or the energy that we represent. The walls of houses or fortification walls around cities are other expressions of this third principle.

4.      The fourth principle is optimization of the quality of man's relationship with his environment, which consists of nature, society, shells (buildings and houses of all sorts),  and networks (ranging from roads to telecommunications). This is the principle that leads to order, physiological and aesthetic, and that influences architecture and, in many respects, art.

5.      Finally, and this is the fifth principle, man organizes his settlements in an attempt to achieve an optimum synthesis of the other four principles, and this optimization is dependent on time and space, on actual conditions, and on man's ability to create a synthesis. When he has achieved this by creating a system of floors, walls, roofs, doors, and windows which allows him to maximize his potential contacts (first principle) while minimizing the energy expended (second principle) and at the same time makes possible his separation from others (third principle) and the desirable relationship with his environment (fourth principle), we speak of "successful human settlements". What we mean is settlements that have achieved a balance between man and his man-made environment, by complying with all five principles. 

The Linkages Of The Five Principles Plays A Vital Role
In Any Urban Planning Exercise.

The Ignorance of the basic 'Quality of Life' in the cities of today gives the Ekistics a helping hand in perpetuating its Science. The emphasis on the inter-relations of the dynamics of the urban spaces and a multi-disciplinary approach which involves a disciplines of Humanities, Social sciences, Anthropometrics, Economics, etc, gives it a upper hand when compared with the contemporary education system of the urban and town planning. Many thinkers and philosopher's have talked about the need for change in the urban planning approach, but somehow, they have failed to give a way out. I have just suggested out a new discipline set to explode, if given a chance for the survival and propagation. I can't guarantee the replacement of Ekistics with the urban planning but surely it has something to say and grasp. It forms the basis for the cities of the future, as to how human will live in a community of Science and Technology leaving behind the boundaries of religions and other things.

The significance of the written part could be taken
as a human is majorly retarded from the values of it's basic living values as far as the
current trend of the city developments are concern.


  Source : Writings by C. A. Doxiadis 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Only Built City of Le Corbusier - Part I - Chandigarh

'Let this be a New City, unfettered by the traditions of the past
 a Symbol of the Nation's Faith in the future'
(first Prime Minister of Independent India,
Pt. J. Nehru)

Pre 'Corbusian' Era

The Site
The Union Territory of Chandigarh is located in the foothills of the Shivalik hill ranges in the north, which form a part of the fragile Himalayan ecosystem. It is occupied by Kandi (Bhabhar) in the north east and Sirowal (Tarai) and alluvial plains in the remaining part. The subsurface formation comprises of beds of boulders, pebbles, gravel, sand, silt, clays and some Kankar. The area is drained by two seasonal rivulets viz Sukhna Choe in the east and Patiala-Ki-Rao Choe in the west. The central Part forms a surface water and has two minor steams. The steam passing through the central part is called N-Choe.

Soon after the Partition of the then 'Bharat', the need of a new Capital for the State of Punjab was felt. About 70 sq. km. of land between the rivulets PatialaChoe and SukhnaChoe were acquired as per a Master Plan developed by Le Corbusier which had a number of control mechanisms such as architectural control, frame control, advertisement control and zoning to regulate development. In 1966, Punjab State was reorganized and Chandigarh became the Capital of Punjab & Haryana having an area of 70 sq. km. and 26 adjoining villages with an area of 44 sq. km. The total area of the city being 114 sq. Km.

The partition of India led to the State of Punjab, in the
boundaries of  'Hindustan' without a capital
zone, Lahore being the earlier one which came in the
boundaries of 'Pakistan'

The Choes(rivulet), Shivalik Ranges and the Morni Hills are in the backdrop of the City Site.

Mayer and Nowicki had prepared a master plan for a population of 500,000. It was based on grid system of low-density neighbourhood defined by a grid of roads. The roads were slightly curved to follow the contours of site and the major traffic arteries would appear dull and monotonous if kept straight.

Plan based on organic form of leaf.  The stem of the leaf was  compared with a commercial  axis, which cuts through  the centre of the city. Traffic arteries would  branch out from this stem.

The unit of housing was a superblock with 500 M x 1000 M dimensions. Each superblock was to consist of 3 blocks which would contain Housing, School, Shopping centers, among other amenities. 3 types of housing for Low, Middle and High-income groups were planned around a central green space. Different income group were mixed intentionally to avoid rigid stratification.

The capital Complex was proposed to be sited at the northern end of the city , with the city centre  in the centre and industrial sector in the east.

Two natural valleys which run across the site were proposed to be developed  as park strips.

      Nowicki was tragically killed in a airplane crash and Mayer decided to leave the project.

Then came the face of Edward Jeanerette commonly known as Le Corbusier, the team of his then designed and planned the city to the built form.  Le Corbusier duly considered the Mayer –Nowicki plan, but introduced several major changes. The socio-economic conditions and the living habits of the people ruled out the idea of vertical and horizontal planning.

The arrival of Le Corbusier and his team changed a lot of things and hence the shape and design changed which would have been the other way, if Nowicki wouldn't have got killed. Well, that's just the if's and but's. Le Corbusier did a commendable job while planning and designing one of India's first planned city after the country got its independence.   

The next section for the development of the city of Chandigarh will be the 'Era of Le Corbusier'. 

Sketches by Maxwell Fry
defining the location of the city
onto the map.

Photo of the  Earlier Construction Phase of the Deelopment of the formation of the city of Chandigarh

The link for the Part II of  'The Only Built City of Le Corbusier' series can be find at http://urbanfailure.blogspot.in/2013/12/the-only-built-city-of-le-corbusier_30.html