Sunday, September 14, 2014

jakarta :: (ex)pression

structure and change
i had an good conversation with a journalist here in jakarta. he explained that for the recent presidential election the campaigns were waged largely on social media (and that for a time 4 of the top 5 top trending topics were coming out of indonesia - it sounds like they were using twitterbots, but anyway...) i'd been reading up on evolutionary urbanism, and one of the tenets is to devolve decisions to as local a level as possible. the power of the very many... 

he also mentioned that the mayor of Bandung is an architect (Riwan Kamil) famous for pioneering the Indonesian Berkebun movement - taking a pejorative/joking term for outcast singles and designating small parks for these people, a move to include them in society, and turning the term on its head.

also the mayor of Surabaya, Tri Rismaharini (or Ibu Risma - Mother Risma) also an architect, rejuvenating that city’s parks and turning many derelict plots into green spaces. Once described as a ‘dirty city full of pretensions and greed’, Surabaya is now known as a ‘million-park’ city.

jakarta itself has a curitiba-inspired trans-city bus line with its own dedicated lane. I use it everyday and thank Allah it exists. otherwise, there is no getting around efficiently w/o a scooter. sadly, some developers are purposely choking the kampongs (local lane neighborhoods), in an effort to strangle the life out of them, and force the locals to sell their land. this has happened along the main roads, and the replacement product is glass-skinned office/residential towers on campus tissue, walled and gated to the surroundings, accessed by automobile. in my experience, the kampungs offer all of the redeeming qualities for this city. they are fun, easily walkable, with local food options, and the people are just lovely.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

jakarta :: (com)pression

the city is fractal
jakarta really got me to think about the fractal nature of cities - there are fewer large-scale streets, more medium-scale, and many small-scale. It stands to reason the buildings associated with these street scales will be of that scale. this is true in most cases, though "breakage" of the rule can be found. more on breakage in a separate post.

[XL] multi-lane avenue - sudirman / tamrin on car-free sunday
<pedestrian overpasses and spec office towers>

[XL] multi-lane avenue - sudirman / tamrin on a normal day (relegated to the sidewalk)
<fence - people - motorbikes - autos - bus - autos - motorbikes - people - fence>

[L] wide two-way street - bendungan hilir (aka benhil)
<dearth of sidewalks and plethora of electrical wiring>

[M] wide one-way street in a kampong

[S] pedestrian lane in a kampong

Friday, July 4, 2014

jakarta :: evolution (informal, formal)

a bemo in front of warungs                                                                                                                                                                     
on neighborhood spine streets, "chaos" results from more informal activities playing out along the street. sidewalks are rare, and the roadside is occupied by a host of vendor carts, parked cars, or scooters. warungs (less formal family restaurants and shops) often line the street. all space on the street is used and if a parked car needs to back out of a spot to get back into the flow of traffic, it requires the service of a spotter to direct them. in one instance, cars were parked so closely in front of a restaurant that the only way I could get by was to climb over a car or two.

midtown manhattan still evolving                                                                                                                                                       
informal --> formal
food carts are an example of the informal activities that begin in the street and over time acquire architectural space. the activity acquires a cart and a little space, in time a shed is built, then rebuilt with sturdier construction, then a full building is built to multiple levels. these are the stages of typology that can be seen in any city (above image shows continued evolution in midtown manhattan, where older form-types give way to bigger and taller types.

formal --> informal
but new activities will always pop up, because the city is dynamic. for example mexican laborers are now manning the corners of already formalized west berkeley. how long before they begin to get a cart for coffee and food while they wait to get picked up for work? over time maybe they’ll move into shops, with fussball and pool tables, as well as coffee and food service, while they wait for work. architect liz ogbu had already caught on to this and speculatively designed a center for the laborers where they could learn english while they wait for work, among other productive activities. an example of an architect inserting ideals into the natural evolution of the city. 

cyclical urbanism
a road is lined with opportunistic informal activity that uses carts. as the activities evolve, the carts are replaced with shacks. over time, the shacks are replaced by more formal shop/restaurant, perhaps with a level of residence above (the shophouse). as the neighborhood further evolves, the shophouse might be replaced with a shop with three or four levels of residences above (the insula). At some point sidewalks were introduced to handle the pedestrian flows and keep autos separate. this is another insertion of ideals - we assume it is safer and more logical to separate traffic modes. but this assumption is being challenged in parts of european cities, where some streets mix all traffic modes again. order can be found in each case.   

optimization or entropy?
policy can always intervene into natural systems and create breakage. consider this alternative to the natural evolution process: corporate developers raze all the piecemeal and construct gigantic shopping centers with office and residential towers on superblocks. more is being controlled now by fewer players, but what does this mean for naturally evolving street life?

form follows finance                                                                                                                                                                                

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

jakarta :: (im)pression

two urban orders
on the one hand social relationships are established in the street where information can easily be exchanged. this is the driving social order behind a dense pattern of low-rise live/work form-types, where the street is heavily populated by pedestrians, bicycles, tricycle trucks, scooters, and donkeys - the old town.

on the other hand modern urban life is characterized by “increasing individualization by way of social relationships established through various networked media and dispersed work careers. so people can now lead functional urban lives without ever having to take others with whom they nominally share living and public spaces into any substantial consideration.” (abdoumaliq) this is a social order conducive to high-rise and suburban living - the new town.

the former urban order has been around as long as cities have been around. the latter has been around since the automobile and the telephone. the former is dying - perceived as impoverished, dirty, and backward, while the latter is growing, and becoming our global culture of space. finding the designer of the former is like trying to find the chef that created the hamburger, while the latter is financed by developers and designed by architects.

*Simone, Abdoumaliq. City Life from Jakarta to Dakar. New York: Routledge, 2010.

Friday, June 27, 2014

singapore :: (com)pression

kampong glam: two streetscape compressions and one five-foot-way compression

arab street

haji lane


Sunday, June 15, 2014

singapore :: (ex)pression

is singapore fractal? 
here i take to a neighborhood with some ideas put forward by urbanist and mathematician nikos salingaros, who has in turn incorporated a number of ideas from christopher alexander. 

universal scale distribution: increasing numbers with decreasing scale

sleeve tattoos continue universal distribution of the body + some building facade analysis

traditional architecture tends to be fractal

a theoretical fractal street network forming a neighborhood

tiong bahru (an actual fractal neighborhood in singapore)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

singapore :: (im)pression

singapore is a city of superlatives and firsts, but the one i would be most proud of is "city with the highest population density in the world" (people/area). one might think this a negative - how is less area per person a good thing? - fact is singapore, a country and a city, boasts a good deal of nature and yet it is able to effectively organize and house multiple millions on such a small footprint. this requires order and efficiency. question is: have they held on to "cityness" after all this optimizing? or is the city now a lifeless machine with good numbers but no soul?    

areas of study in singapore (l-r): tiong bahru | orchard | tanjong pagar | singapore river quays | bugis | little india | kampong glam | joo chiat

the yellow lines are connecting walks. the red line is an elevated railway/metro from which i take tracking videos (i nickname these "streetpans") for later comparison with other cities.