HomeDiagramsDatabaseMapsForum About
     

Go Back   SkyscraperPage Forum > Discussion Forums > City Discussions


Reply

 
Thread Tools Display Modes
     
     
  #1  
Old Posted Jan 22, 2021, 12:06 AM
M II A II R II K's Avatar
M II A II R II K M II A II R II K is online now
Registered User
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Toronto
Posts: 49,846
Can Good Urbanism “Save” Bad Architecture?

Boring Buildings, Great Places


January 20, 2021

By Daniel Herriges

Read More: https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/...s-great-places

Quote:
The ingredients of a great place are simple. There are fundamentally only two of them, and neither is reliant on years of design expertise and training. You don’t need A+ architecture. You don't need a genius master plan by a Nolen or Olmsted. You don’t need a great amount of wealth, either. There are two prerequisites for every great urban place. One is a critical mass of people, on foot. Which means something to attract them: shopping, recreation, scenery, some other destination of note.

- I responded a few months ago to a tweet by an architect, Christopher Liberatos of Bevan & Liberatos. He wrote, “Good architecture can save bad urbanism, but not vice versa.” With all due respect to Mr. Liberatosand I grant that our disagreement might hinge on what we each mean by “save” my own view is diametrically opposite. I think good urbanism can save bad architecture any day, if your goal is to create a place worth being and maintaining and belonging to. — The example I cited in our Twitter exchange was the Yanaka Ginza in Tokyo. It’s a small neighborhood shopping street in a quiet, mostly low-rise neighborhood, albeit one that has gained a certain amount of low-key renown. It’s not a tourist attraction, really although I visited this place as a tourist (in 2005), the customers are mostly locals, and the shops cater mostly to locals, selling everyday goods rather than, say, souvenirs. But the Yanaka Ginza has been written up here and there. JW Magazine calls it “Tokyo’s best old-fashioned shopping street,” and emblematic of the traditional Tokyo lifestyle of the shitamachi.

- I haven’t seen a lot written about the urbanism of farmers’ markets, but you can view them as the basic template for every commercial street in history. The narrow passages between rows of stalls, wares on prominent display for window-shopping. The regular local clientele, mingled with some who come from farther away. In the history of civilization, many cities, maybe most began as simple markets like this, or trading posts. — The popularity of farmers’ markets in the U.S., and the explosion in the number and quality of them in recent decades, isn’t just about growing interest in locally-grown or organic food, though I’m sure it is partially that. It’s also about the deep pleasure of wandering the passageways of a place that meets every criterion for excellent urbanism top-notch human habitat. It’s fun, and a great third place to mingle or meet. And you can get practical shopping done while you’re there. When you think of a street like the Yanaka Ginza as just a further evolution of the outdoor market, you start to see worlds of opportunity for placemaking in all of our communities.

.....



The shops here sell street food and confections but also basic groceries. You can buy a watch or a book or get a haircut. Most are very small and locally owned. A large staircase comprises the eastern end, from which it is a short walk to the train station. Turn down a side street, and you’re in residential quarters. The area is extremely compact, enough to be fairly high density without being high-rise. Not a square foot is wasted.











There are a few shopping streets in America that are like this in dimensions and feel, but they're much more likely to be full-scale tourist attractions that have little to offer the local (Something like LA's Olvera Street comes to mind). But the kind of shopping experience you have in Yanaka is actually extremely familiar to Americans, just from a different context: that of a farmer's market.






Of course, some truly sublime places do boast all of the human-scale vibrancy and also great architecture that produces a distinctive, unified aesthetic. There’s no reason we shouldn’t aspire to have both form and function. Here are some Japanese examples:











__________________
ASDFGHJK
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #2  
Old Posted Jan 22, 2021, 1:12 AM
Shawn Shawn is offline
Moderator
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Tokyo
Posts: 5,453
"Boring Buildings, Great Places" - welcome to every Japanese city. Tokyo and Osaka and etc. etc. etc. are proof that you can indeed have amazing urban environments with average-at-best vernacular. Set-up and usage are ultimately more important than form.

I used to live 5 minutes south of Yanaka Ginza (highlighted in the OP's article) and shopped there daily at a greengrocer, butcher, drug store, and/or one of a few mini-supermarkets. Plus bento places for lunch on the weekends. Japan does mixed retail so well.
__________________
“You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.”
Harlan Ellison
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #3  
Old Posted Jan 22, 2021, 5:49 AM
craigs's Avatar
craigs craigs is online now
Registered User
 
Join Date: May 2019
Location: In COVID-19 exile
Posts: 1,953
Yeah, I was going to say--Tokyo. Bad architecture, great place.
__________________
Absent accountability, unity is impossible.
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #4  
Old Posted Jan 22, 2021, 11:17 AM
kool maudit's Avatar
kool maudit kool maudit is offline
five one foreigner
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Stockholm
Posts: 12,173
Yes, in my experience. The northern side of Pristina (Vellusha/Dodona) is constructed near-entirely of cheap apartment buildings. They are clad in garish stucco and feature all manner of weird architectural gestures. But the unplanned nature of the district means they follow the form of an Italian hill town. As such, the urban experience is intense and idiosyncratic.
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #5  
Old Posted Jan 22, 2021, 1:19 PM
Crawford Crawford is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: Brooklyn, NYC/Polanco, DF
Posts: 22,552
Almost all German cities qualify. Bad postwar architecture, shoddily constructed in the 1950's. But generally very good urbanism.

I do think you're missing something with bad architecture, though. German cities are much worse, pound for pound, than, say, French cities, and it's mostly architecture. And yeah, Japanese cities are super-vibrant but they're pretty ugly.
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #6  
Old Posted Jan 22, 2021, 1:30 PM
strongbad635 strongbad635 is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Houston, TX 77008
Posts: 327
I feel like it depends. There are different types of "bad architecture" that create different problems.

I think one of the most critical components of good urbanism is buildings that create places. Sure, there are some shitty buildings that still manage to create a decent place because their form, orientation to the street, and scale match the kinds of designs that reinforce a good sense of place for humans psychologically. But some buildings just aren't able to do that because they were designed as objects and not placemakers. A huge amount of modern and postmodern buildings are designed as objects, to be viewed and photographed from a distance with almost no consideration for what it feels like to stand next to the building itself. These buildings don't create a place where they meet the street because it just wasn't something the architect cared about. That, in my opinion, is incompatible with good urbanism. It can really only be addressed with a wrecking ball.
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #7  
Old Posted Jan 22, 2021, 4:28 PM
bossabreezes bossabreezes is online now
Registered User
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: NYC/SP/RJ
Posts: 404
The pictures above of whatever Japanese town/village doesn't strike me as bad architecture, but rather the old style vernacular that has been substituted for the new, sterile (and uncreative) architecture you see in their larger cities. I like that they preserved that town, wherever it is. It actually looks cool to me.

That being said, this is totally a case by case situation. Some places have great urbanism, horrible architecture and are amazing/vibrant places, but this recipe can also create really dead, bland places too. So this doesn't really have a cause and effect line of progression, it's pretty random in general.
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #8  
Old Posted Jan 22, 2021, 7:16 PM
memph memph is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 1,531
Quote:
Originally Posted by strongbad635 View Post
I feel like it depends. There are different types of "bad architecture" that create different problems.

I think one of the most critical components of good urbanism is buildings that create places. Sure, there are some shitty buildings that still manage to create a decent place because their form, orientation to the street, and scale match the kinds of designs that reinforce a good sense of place for humans psychologically. But some buildings just aren't able to do that because they were designed as objects and not placemakers. A huge amount of modern and postmodern buildings are designed as objects, to be viewed and photographed from a distance with almost no consideration for what it feels like to stand next to the building itself. These buildings don't create a place where they meet the street because it just wasn't something the architect cared about. That, in my opinion, is incompatible with good urbanism. It can really only be addressed with a wrecking ball.
Yeah, it depends what you call bad architecture. There's a lot of urban neighbourhoods in Spain that were built in the 40s-60s with very simple modern architecture, but they're still designed in a way that's appropriate to proper urban function. In that case can we truly call the architecture bad? Or just modest? Ex:
https://www.google.ca/maps/@41.64989...7i13312!8i6656

One of the best stretches of urbanism in suburban Toronto was also developed around this time (40s-80s) with similarly modest architecture.
https://www.google.ca/maps/@43.44363...7i16384!8i8192
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #9  
Old Posted Jan 22, 2021, 10:02 PM
The North One's Avatar
The North One The North One is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 4,676
I completely disagree with the idea that Tokyo has "bad architecture". There is a lot of beauty and good design in it's modern buildings.
__________________
Spawn of questionable parentage!
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #10  
Old Posted Jan 23, 2021, 12:36 AM
llamaorama llamaorama is offline
Unicorn Wizard!
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 3,732
Quote:
Originally Posted by strongbad635 View Post
But some buildings just aren't able to do that because they were designed as objects and not placemakers.
Quote:
Originally Posted by The North One View Post
I completely disagree with the idea that Tokyo has "bad architecture". There is a lot of beauty and good design in it's modern buildings.
I agree.

Firstly, I don't think the stereotypical late 1970s style Japanese modern architecture is actually that bad aesthetically. It tends to have clean lines, muted colors, doesn't stand out too much, and is softened by greenery. When it's ugly that's probably just because it was cheap. It's like the IKEA furniture of buildings.

Secondly, you guys are right. Architecture isn't totally subjective art like sculpture. Function matters and if it's aesthetically distasteful in a profound way*, that might be because it makes humans feel bad for some explainable reason. If it does do that, that would be an obvious symptom of the architect not caring about the human user which predicts all sorts of other problems.

*** I think some buildings are subjectively ugly to some people who are snobs, like early 90s suburban Olive Gardens, but are otherwise harmless. That's not really the same thing as being actively offensive, like a Minsk tower block in winter.

Last edited by llamaorama; Jan 23, 2021 at 12:56 AM.
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #11  
Old Posted Jan 23, 2021, 6:17 AM
JManc's Avatar
JManc JManc is online now
Moderator
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Houston
Posts: 29,627
I found Japanese cities rather ugly yet still as vibrant and inviting as intact European cities.
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #12  
Old Posted Jan 24, 2021, 1:42 AM
Minato Ku's Avatar
Minato Ku Minato Ku is offline
Tokyo and Paris fan
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Paris, Montrouge
Posts: 3,949
As for place with bad architecture but great surrounding, I would also cite Hong Kong.

Let be honest, every buildings in the street are very ugly but it's quite inviting to walk.
https://www.google.fr/maps/@22.30442...6384!8i8192?hl

And infact the worst places to walk in central Hong Kong are those made with shiny buildings.
https://www.google.fr/maps/@22.27874...6384!8i8192?hl

What matters most is the way the buildings interacts with the street, much more than their general appearance.
Good urbanism and ugly buildings is better than good looking buildings but bad urbanism.
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #13  
Old Posted Jan 24, 2021, 2:11 AM
Minato Ku's Avatar
Minato Ku Minato Ku is offline
Tokyo and Paris fan
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Paris, Montrouge
Posts: 3,949
Quote:
Originally Posted by Crawford View Post
Almost all German cities qualify. Bad postwar architecture, shoddily constructed in the 1950's. But generally very good urbanism.

I do think you're missing something with bad architecture, though. German cities are much worse, pound for pound, than, say, French cities, and it's mostly architecture. And yeah, Japanese cities are super-vibrant but they're pretty ugly.
Actually as a French I'm quite jalous of German cities.
They have been able to re-built urban functionning cities after WW2 while we didn't in France.
We were too immersed in the new urban ideas of Corbusier and the new town centers we built are quite lacking of the urbanity.
After we choose the suburban model for development with shopping centers and big box retails surrounded by parkings.

Our destroyed historic centers of have never been able to regain their former glories unlike German cities. (Fortunately most of our cities have been quite spared).
And many of our town centers and inner cities were not ably to truly grow outside their pre-WW2 perimeters.
We lack of urban neighborhoods out of the city center (outside few exception like Paris).
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #14  
Old Posted Jan 24, 2021, 2:53 PM
Ifactwo Ifactwo is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Sep 2017
Posts: 34
Interesting forum indeed!
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #15  
Old Posted Jan 24, 2021, 3:17 PM
Crawford Crawford is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: Brooklyn, NYC/Polanco, DF
Posts: 22,552
Quote:
Originally Posted by Minato Ku View Post
Our destroyed historic centers of have never been able to regain their former glories unlike German cities. (Fortunately most of our cities have been quite spared).
Seriously? Strasbourg, which was heavily bombed, has a much nicer center than any German city. The only reason it was rebuilt so nicely is because it's now in France. It's really the nicest "German" city center anywhere. If it were still in Germany it would look like crap, in the postwar rush to rebuild.

France was lucky to have fewer cities flattened, but the fact is that they did a much nicer job with postwar rebuilding (which, granted, is much easier when 10% of your country is destroyed instead of 50%).

All the German city centers are much uglier than French city centers. Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Munich, Cologne, Mannheim, all the Ruhr cities, all the former GDR cities. Maybe Nuremberg is the best, in terms of having the least 1950's-looking core crap? Heidelberg is nice too, but wasn't heavily bombed, and is much smaller.

German suburbs tend to be slightly more UK/US-looking, with more SFH and less multifamily than France, but otherwise not that different from France. Germany has more of the big box-style development too.
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #16  
Old Posted Jan 24, 2021, 3:24 PM
MonkeyRonin's Avatar
MonkeyRonin MonkeyRonin is offline
¥ ¥ ¥
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Toronto
Posts: 8,086
Good urbanism is about function moreso than aesthetics, so the answer is yes, basically.

Architecture still matters though, as a building's massing, street level interface, and the way it interacts with its neighbours are absolutely critical in fostering good urbanism. The more cosmetic stuff like a building's cladding and ornamentation is less critical.

By this criteria, I'd say some of the above examples from places like Hong Kong aren't actually "bad architecture" because they're still responsive to their surroundings and play an important role in their contribution to place-making. Even if they're otherwise utilitarian and looking a bit dingy or run down.
__________________

Last edited by MonkeyRonin; Jan 24, 2021 at 6:25 PM.
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #17  
Old Posted Jan 24, 2021, 5:06 PM
Minato Ku's Avatar
Minato Ku Minato Ku is offline
Tokyo and Paris fan
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Paris, Montrouge
Posts: 3,949
I would agree that a building that response to their surroundings could be viewed as good architeture even if it's ugly.
Do a nice building but misplaced could be considered as bad architecture ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Crawford View Post
Seriously? Strasbourg, which was heavily bombed, has a much nicer center than any German city. The only reason it was rebuilt so nicely is because it's now in France. It's really the nicest "German" city center anywhere. If it were still in Germany it would look like crap, in the postwar rush to rebuild.
Strasbourg was not as heavily bombed as most german cities.
We didn't have to rebuit the whole cities but just buildings.

In red, parts destroyed by the bombardments


https://journals.openedition.org/alsace/2415

You should rather look what we built at Le Havre or Caen, Brest, Lorient, Dunkerque, place where most of the historic center was demolished.

Rue de Paris, Le Havre

Rue Saint Jean, Caen

While most of its historic core remain intact the northern side of Old port of Marseille was bombed, destroying an old medieval neighborhood.
Rue de la Loge, Marseille

Quote:
Originally Posted by Crawford View Post
France was lucky to have fewer cities flattened, but the fact is that they did a much nicer job with postwar rebuilding (which, granted, is much easier when 10% of your country is destroyed instead of 50%).

All the German city centers are much uglier than French city centers. Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Munich, Cologne, Mannheim, all the Ruhr cities, all the former GDR cities. Maybe Nuremberg is the best, in terms of having the least 1950's-looking core crap? Heidelberg is nice too, but wasn't heavily bombed, and is much smaller.
Yes, we were lucky because I don't know how our cities would look if those have been heavily bombed like German cities.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Crawford View Post
German suburbs tend to be slightly more UK/US-looking, with more SFH and less multifamily than France, but otherwise not that different from France. Germany has more of the big box-style development too.
There are fewer big-box style retail development in Germany than in France.

In France, most of the shopping is done in suburban shopping areas while in Germany, city centers and urban neighbourhoods dominate.

Geographic distribution of retails turnover.

France :
city center : 20%
urban neighbourhoods : 10%
Periphery : 70%

Germany :
City center 30%
Urban neighbourhoods : 40%
Periphery : 30%
Commerce et mobilité
L’activité commerciale face aux nouvelles
politiques publiques de déplacements, page 22

Last edited by Minato Ku; Jan 24, 2021 at 6:07 PM.
Reply With Quote
     
     
End
 
 
Reply

Go Back   SkyscraperPage Forum > Discussion Forums > City Discussions
Forum Jump


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Forum Jump


All times are GMT. The time now is 7:52 PM.

     

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.