This article uses an urban intervention in Panama City to discuss fundamental concepts in public space projects from a critical and theoretical perspective.
First, the functions of the street as a basic structure of public space are illustrated. Its importance is recognized not only as an element of urban connectivity, but also as a place of movement, encounter, support and creation of urban meanings and social identities.
Secondly, our case study is contextualized: the urban renewal of via Argentina, a street in the urban center whose environment was in a state of degradation like most streets in the city, largely occupied by the presence of vehicles. The intervention is part of a series of urban projects aimed at improving the physical structure of the city. The third section begins a critical analysis of the actions on Via Argentina, starting with the redistribution of street space, the relationship between vehicles and pedestrians, and the consolidation of public space.
Next, we discuss in detail the new primary elements used for the urbanization of the street. Curbs, fords, pavement, rigola, gutters, tree surrounds and bollards become part of a system that must maintain a coherent relationship between all its parts. In addition, emphasis is placed on the design of the ground and the application of the pavement as a tool for the construction of an urban image and identity. Finally, the article ends with an analysis of the parameters of accessibility in the project, relating the concept to the use of the pavement and the configuration in some sections of the street as a single platform. The article uses a wide repertoire of documentary photography to contextualize the case study.
Urban design; Public space; Pavement; Universal accessibility; Single platform; Via Argentina; Panama City.
Cities have been inspirational for the creators of visual art works long since, first as mere secondary, additional motifs to indicate the “urban” environment of the main scene, then as subject-matters in their own right. Those images could depict both imaginary and actual cities of the past and of the future, including mythological and Biblical locations, documenting distant lands and fantasizing on the appearance of utopian cities. In some of these aspects, the history of city representations shares significant similarities with the history of landscape depictions.
In the present paper, however, I aim to focus on a curious and particular detail in this pictorial tradition. Following and further investigating a brief reflection by Michel Makarius from his 2004 book on Ruins, I would like to compare the visuality and aesthetic effects of dense and empty cityscapes, of which two classical examples could be the capriccios – imaginary views of cities completely filled with aesthetically pleasing elements, including magnificent remnants of the Antique heritage – and representations of cities in which their emptiness is highlighted to such extent that the observer tends to assume that the real subject-matter of the image is not the city, its buildings, forms and physical components but exactly its being “empty”.
These “extremities” on the broad range of cityscapes, i.e., the densely-filled and the extremely depopulated are, however, not merely historical sub-genres of long-gone centuries. These typologies have survived to this day, in various versions and with diverse accents; what’s more, they seem to be more relevant than ever in understanding not only the nature of these artistic representations and their aesthetic references, but also in learning more of our contemporary reality itself. It is enough to think of the numerous ways in which artists approach the convoluted issues and challenges of urban life today, with the classical references and visual vocabulary in mind, either unconsciously creating occasional parallels or using them as explicit forerunners to their own works. The density of the global megapolises are represented in artistically novel ways often with socially critical overtones, while the images of empty cities – not long ago, for example, during the recent pandemics and lockdowns – are again resulting in aesthetically inspiring and insightful works incentivizing us to reflect on the oscillating dynamisms of our present urban realities. Therefore, it is particularly beneficial to observe such renderings of our cities and hence to raise more our awareness of the multiple global issues that are often very strongly manifested in the everyday life in large metropolises. Pieces of art thematising the extreme forms of city life can become very efficient ways of constantly reminding us of our duties of taking care of both our cities and our life.
representations of cities; dense cityscapes; empty cities; aesthetics of urbanity
Lefebvre (Lefebvre, Henry, 1973) pointed out the contradictions inherent to the monument. He defends it insofar as it “projects on the ground a worldview and a transcendence, a beyond“; but he rejects it because when it “organizes a space, colonizes and oppresses its surroundings”, (… and) “full of symbols it offers them for contemplation (passive) and social conscience when they are out of date and have lost their meaning“. Continue reading What are the monuments for?
Ending 2017 the Mataro`s City Council launched a contest in order to draw a strategic plan for the centre of the city.
“The aim of the Ideas Contest is to design a strategy and a model that includes economy, urban development, architecture, mobility and economic, cultural and social development in its actions to allow the city centre to be put forward as a motor of cultural activity, of trade and tourism within a single discourse that revalues its legacy of history and heritage. The selected proposal will become the strategic instrument to develop the Mataró Centre Development Strategic Plan”.Continue reading “Mataró Ideal City” by Jordi Henrich, wins the contest for Centre Development Strategic Plan
This series, titled as the novel by Francesc Candel (1957), desires to help to build up an account of the many experiences of neighbours in order to improve their living conditions, giving visibility to the work on memory retrieval developed in many neighbourhoods and recover the spirit of belonging, solidarity, dignity and struggle.
Thursday, November 29, at 7:00 pm, at the Bon Pastor Library.
The public space is structured in four planes: that of the ground, the vertical (not exclusively of facade); the plane of the air and a fourth plane that can be called zenital. The most studied is the horizontal plane, built from infrastructures, elements of urban service (lighting, vegetation, signage, etc.) and interfacing with urban systems (water, electricity, gas, etc.), with the omnipresent elements of paving. (see)
The study of the vertical plane is reduced to the analysis of the facades, although the vertical containment of public space goes beyond the facades. (see)
Within the framework of the international conference “3rd Aesthehic Energy of the City: URBAN POLARITIES” , the POLIS Research Centre presented the exhibition “20 years working with neighbors” that gathers the main processes of citizen participation in which the Center has intervened since 1997.