São Paulo, Brazil is known for its vibrant culture, but as of late, it’s also been in the news because of its deadly floods and mudslides. Seeing the aftermath of these disasters, designer Mike Reyes decided to come up with an emergency shelter concept for the survivors of future floods. The result is Rise, a prefabricated, modular dwelling that could be implanted onto an abandoned building like a parasite.
“With an avant-garde approach and forward thinking, as a designer, my goal was to provide sustainable homes for the stranded survivors in all the overly populated mega city, for this project specifically São Paulo,” writes Reyes of his design. “These emergency shelters are designed to rebuild a new community and help start future development. Rise’s method of creating a community is like a parasite, they take ownership, re-purposing and aiding abandoned structures; providing resources.”
Inspired by favelas or Brazilian shanty towns, the structures are box-like homes that can be attached onto the facades of other buildings. Reyes’ concept is unique in that it actually enlists able-bodied survivors to assist with the implementation of the shelters – a cool idea, since it empowers them to take action instead of simply sitting around, waiting for help. Reyes envisions that the pre-constructedstructures could be airlifted by helicopter to sites where they are needed and then guided into place with the help of survivors. They “clip” onto building facades using leverage.
Each shelter would contain beds, lighting, storage and a skylight and be made of recycled materials from local construction sites. There would also be attachments for solar energy, water purification and organic farming. Finding muse in the famous favela paintings of Rio de Janeiro, Reyes also hopes that survivors will be able to use the walls of their shelters as canvases once they are settled in, using painting as a creative outlet as they begin the process of healing.
To mark the bicentenary of the death of Giuseppe Piermarini, ( Foligno, 18th July 1734 – 18 February 1808), the architect of the Scala opera house in Milan, the Minister for Art and Culture and the “National Committee for the Celebration of the Bicentenary of the Death of Giuseppe Piermarini” have organised a workshop to honour the work of the architect.
Foligno 1820, drawing courtesy Studio KUADRA
Drawing courtesy Studio KUADRA
The utopian idea consists of turning back the clock 200 years to rediscover the historic roots of the city plan in 1819. This will then be the starting point for an imaginary urban plan which will provide a modern city capable of offering all the facilities and amenities necessary for the present day. Seven areas of the historic centre have been selected and each assigned to an invited architectural firm . Each sector has to blend the latest concepts in urban development and architecture as well as a “folly” by Piermarini, that is, one of his many undeveloped projects.
Render courtesy Studio KUADRA
Studio Kuadra was assigned “area 8” with one of Piermarini’s “follies” , a design for a “stylised coffee house” ; a circular building of which only a few plans still exist. A longstanding exhibition in the Centro Arte Contemporanea in Foligno and a catalogue are the results of the workshop.
Render courtesy Studio KUADRA
The project exploits the chance to build against the city battlements so as to redefine the physical and perceptual boundaries of the area. The concept of an external perimeter was reinforced by creating a bastion which serves both as a small city park and school building. As a result this emphasises the sense of protection offered to the inhabitants by the military nature of the construction, while the fortifications have been remodelled for the new buildings and uses required. The entire makes the area extremely accessible.
Render courtesy Studio KUADRA
At the summit of the flights of steps, the fortifications have an observation area with a view of the world outside the walls where the city’s skyline can be admired.
Access to vehicles has been restricted to the area around the school. The area around the base of the steps has been converted to a city garden, This will be managed by the school, and ensures the city has a ready supply of fresh produce in the event of future sieges! The garden will be an instrument of social and pedagogical development, and a fulcrum for the creation of a community area as well as responding to the ever increasing demand for nature and breathing space in cities.
Render courtesy Studio KUADRA
Before the industrial revolution, country and city cohabitated in harmony together, indeed, it can be said that in every phase of western history the development of a city was accompanied by a proportional growth in the parks and market gardens inside the city. This tradition was lost with the industrial revolution, nowadays in cities, cars have the upper hand.
The last 20 years have seen a revival in the venerable tradition of allotments: that is gardens inserted into the city fabric and assigned to citizens, but owned by an association or the town council. They are worked by amateur gardeners ( in this case the pupils).
Render courtesy Studio KUADRA
The concept is to rethink the structure of Foligno based on its historic conformation ( a fortified city and urban allotments) to design a more sustainable future.
The stairways enveloping the “bastion” mean that it is completely accessible at every level and even the summit and outer walls are open to the public. In this light a terrace above the level of the city wall has been created as an observation point with a view of the outside and in particular the city itself.
The “folly” has been provocatively positioned on the summit of the fortifications, in the most exposed point and the most visible, increasing the juxtaposition with the surroundings, a spire jutting into the sky as in the original plans.
Section, drawing courtesy Studio KUADRA
The building is supported on a slim winding framework with an hourglass shape, giving it a perfect balance; an installation in the garden of a modern art museum. Although the building sits atop the fortifications like a lantern, the folly does not interrupt the grassy path running along the city walls as tradition requires. Here this is reinterpreted as a smooth lawn, surrounded by shrubs, it might seem as if it immersed in an orchard; keeping a watchful eye on the gardens lower down.
The great obsession of the nineteenth century was, as we know, history: with its themes of development and of suspension, of crisis, and cycle, themes of the ever-accumulating past, with its great preponderance of dead men and the menacing glaciation of the world. The nineteenth century found its essential mythological resources in the second principle of thermaldynamics- The present epoch will perhaps be above all the epoch of space. We are in the epoch of simultaneity: we are in the epoch of juxtaposition, the epoch of the near and far, of the side-by-side, of the dispersed. We are at a moment. I believe, when our experience of the world is less that of a long life developing through time than that of a network that connects points and intersects with its own skein. One could perhaps say that certain ideological conflicts animating present-day polemics oppose the pious descendents of time and the determined inhabitants of space. Structuralism, or at least which is grouped under this slightly too general name, is the effort to establish, between elements that could have been connected on a temporal axis, an ensemble of relations that makes them appear as juxtaposed, set off against one another, implicated by each other-that makes them appear, in short, as a sort of configuration. Actually, structuralism does not entail denial of time; it does involve a certain manner of dealing with what we call time and what we call history.
Yet it is necessary to notice that the space which today appears to form the horizon of our concerns, our theory, our systems, is not an innovation; space itself has a history in Western experience, and it is not possible to disregard the fatal intersection of time with space. One could say, by way of retracing this history of space very roughly, that in the Middle Ages there was a hierarchic ensemble of places: sacred places and profane plates: protected places and open, exposed places: urban places and rural places (all these concern the real life of men). In cosmological theory, there were the supercelestial places as opposed to the celestial, and the celestial place was in its turn opposed to the terrestrial place. There were places where things had been put because they had been violently displaced, and then on the contrary places where things found their natural ground and stability. It was this complete hierarchy, this opposition, this intersection of places that constituted what could very roughly be called medieval space: the space of emplacement.
This space of emplacement was opened up by Galileo. For the real scandal of Galileo’s work lay not so much in his discovery, or rediscovery, that the earth revolved around the sun, but in his constitution of an infinite, and infinitely open space. In such a space the place of the Middle Ages turned out to be dissolved. as it were; a thing’s place was no longer anything but a point in its movement, just as the stability of a thing was only its movement indefinitely slowed down. In other words, starting with Galileo and the seventeenth century, extension was substituted for localization.
Today the site has been substituted for extension which itself had replaced emplacement. The site is defined by relations of proximity between points or elements; formally, we can describe these relations as series, trees, or grids. Moreover, the importance of the site as a problem in contemporary technical work is well known: the storage of data or of the intermediate results of a calculation in the memory of a machine, the circulation of discrete elements with a random output (automobile traffic is a simple case, or indeed the sounds on a telephone line); the identification of marked or coded elements inside a set that may be randomly distributed, or may be arranged according to single or to multiple classifications.
In a still more concrete manner, the problem of siting or placement arises for mankind in terms of demography. This problem of the human site or living space is not simply that of knowing whether there will be enough space for men in the world -a problem that is certainly quite important - but also that of knowing what relations of propinquity, what type of storage, circulation, marking, and classification of human elements should be adopted in a given situation in order to achieve a given end. Our epoch is one in which space takes for us the form of relations among sites.
In any case I believe that the anxiety of our era has to do fundamentally with space, no doubt a great deal more than with time. Time probably appears to us only as one of the various distributive operations that are possible for the elements that are spread out in space,
Now, despite all the techniques for appropriating space, despite the whole network of knowledge that enables us to delimit or to formalize it, contemporary space is perhaps still not entirely desanctified (apparently unlike time, it would seem, which was detached from the sacred in the nineteenth century). To be sure a certain theoretical desanctification of space (the one signaled by Galileo’s work) has occurred, but we may still not have reached the point of a practical desanctification of space. And perhaps our life is still governed by a certain number of oppositions that remain inviolable, that our institutions and practices have not yet dared to break down. These are oppositions that we regard as simple givens: for example between private space and public space, between family space and social space, between cultural space and useful space, between the space of leisure and that of work. All these are still nurtured by the hidden presence of the sacred.
Bachelard’s monumental work and the descriptions of phenomenologists have taught us that we do not live in a homogeneous and empty space, but on the contrary in a space thoroughly imbued with quantities and perhaps thoroughly fantasmatic as well. The space of our primary perception, the space of our dreams and that of our passions hold within themselves qualities that seem intrinsic: there is a light, ethereal, transparent space, or again a dark, rough, encumbered space; a space from above, of summits, or on the contrary a space from below of mud; or again a space that can be flowing like sparkling water, or space that is fixed, congealed, like stone or crystal. Yet these analyses, while fundamental for reflection in our time, primarily concern internal space. I should like to speak now of external space.
The space in which we live, which draws us out of ourselves, in which the erosion of our lives. our time and our history occurs, the space that claws and gnaws at us, is also, in itself, a heterogeneous space. In other words, we do not live in a kind of void, inside of which we could place individuals and things. We do not live inside a void that could be colored with diverse shades of light, we live inside a set of relations that delineates sites which are irreducible to one another and absolutely not superimposable on one another.
Of course one might attempt to describe these different sites by looking for the set of relations by which a given site can be defined. For example, describing the set of relations that define the sites of transportation, streets, trains (a train is an extraordinary bundle of relations because it is something through which one goes, it is also something by means of which one can go from one point to another, and then it is also something that goes by). One could describe, via the cluster of relations that allows them to be defined, the sites of temporary relaxation -cafes, cinemas, beaches. Likewise one could describe, via its network of relations, the closed or semi-closed sites of rest - the house, the bedroom, the bed, el cetera. But among all these sites, I am interested in certain ones that have the curious property of being in relation with all the other sites, but in such a way as to suspect, neutralize, or invert the set of relations that they happen to designate, mirror, or reflect. These spaces, as it were, which are linked with all the others, which however contradict all the other sites, are of two main types.
First there are the utopias. Utopias are sites with no real place. They are sites that have a general relation of direct or inverted analogy with the real space of Society. They present society itself in a perfected form, or else society turned upside down, but in any case these utopias are fundamentally unreal spaces.
There are also, probably in every culture, in every civilization, real places - places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society - which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted. Places of this kind are outside of all places, even though it may be possible to indicate their location in reality. Because these places are absolutely different from all the sites that they reflect and speak about, I shall call them, by way of contrast to utopias, heterotopias. I believe that between utopias and these quite other sites, these heterotopias, there might be a sort of mixed, joint experience, which would be the mirror. The mirror is, after all, a utopia, since it is a placeless place. In the mirror, I see myself there where I am not, in an unreal, virtual space that opens up behind the surface; I am over there, there where I am not, a sort of shadow that gives my own visibility to myself, that enables me to see myself there where I am absent: such is the utopia of the mirror. But it is also a heterotopia in so far as the mirror does exist in reality, where it exerts a sort of counteraction on the position that I occupy. From the standpoint of the mirror I discover my absence from the place where I am since I see myself over there. Starting from this gaze that is, as it were, directed toward me, from the ground of this virtual space that is on the other side of the glass, I come back toward myself; I begin again to direct my eyes toward myself and to reconstitute myself there where I am. The mirror functions as a heterotopia in this respect: it makes this place that I occupy at the moment when I look at myself in the glass at once absolutely real, connected with all the space that surrounds it, and absolutely unreal, since in order to be perceived it has to pass through this virtual point which is over there.
As for the heterotopias as such, how can they be described? What meaning do they have? We might imagine a sort of systematic description - I do not say a science because the term is too galvanized now -that would, in a given society, take as its object the study, analysis, description, and ‘reading’ (as some like to say nowadays) of these different spaces, of these other places. As a sort of simultaneously mythic and real contestation of the space in which we live, this description could be called heterotopology.
Its first principle is that there is probably not a single culture in the world that fails to constitute heterotopias. That is a constant of every human group. But the heterotopias obviously take quite varied forms, and perhaps no one absolutely universal form of heterotopia would be found. We can however class them in two main categories.
In the so-called primitive societies, there is a certain form of heterotopia that I would call crisis heterotopias, i.e., there are privileged or sacred or forbidden places, reserved for individuals who are, in relation to society and to the human environment in which they live, in a state of crisis: adolescents, menstruating women, pregnant women. the elderly, etc. In out society, these crisis heterotopias are persistently disappearing, though a few remnants can still be found. For example, the boarding school, in its nineteenth-century form, or military service for young men, have certainly played such a role, as the first manifestations of sexual virility were in fact supposed to take place “elsewhere” than at home. For girls, there was, until the middle of the twentieth century, a tradition called the “honeymoon trip” which was an ancestral theme. The young woman’s deflowering could take place “nowhere” and, at the moment of its occurrence the train or honeymoon hotel was indeed the place of this nowhere, this heterotopia without geographical markers.
But these heterotopias of crisis are disappearing today and are being replaced, I believe, by what we might call heterotopias of deviation: those in which individuals whose behavior is deviant in relation to the required mean or norm are placed. Cases of this are rest homes and psychiatric hospitals, and of course prisons, and one should perhaps add retirement homes that are, as it were, on the borderline between the heterotopia of crisis and the heterotopia of deviation since, after all, old age is a crisis, but is also a deviation since in our society where leisure is the rule, idleness is a sort of deviation.
The second principle of this description of heterotopias is that a society, as its history unfolds, can make an existing heterotopia function in a very different fashion; for each heterotopia has a precise and determined function within a society and the same heterotopia can, according to the synchrony of the culture in which it occurs, have one function or another.
As an example I shall take the strange heterotopia of the cemetery. The cemetery is certainly a place unlike ordinary cultural spaces. It is a space that is however connected with all the sites of the city, state or society or village, etc., since each individual, each family has relatives in the cemetery. In western culture the cemetery has practically always existed. But it has undergone important changes. Until the end of the eighteenth century, the cemetery was placed at the heart of the city, next to the church. In it there was a hierarchy of possible tombs. There was the charnel house in which bodies lost the last traces of individuality, there were a few individual tombs and then there were the tombs inside the church. These latter tombs were themselves of two types, either simply tombstones with an inscription, or mausoleums with statues. This cemetery housed inside the sacred space of the church has taken on a quite different cast in modern civilizations, and curiously, it is in a time when civilization has become ‘atheistic,’ as one says very crudely, that western culture has established what is termed the cult of the dead.
Basically it was quite natural that, in a time of real belief in the resurrection of bodies and the immortality of the soul, overriding importance was not accorded to the body’s remains. On the contrary, from the moment when people are no longer sure that they have a soul or that the body will regain life, it is perhaps necessary to give much more attention to the dead body, which is ultimately the only trace of our existence in the world and in language. In any case, it is from the beginning of the nineteenth century that everyone has a right to her or his own little box for her or his own little personal decay, but on the other hand, it is only from that start of the nineteenth century that cemeteries began to be located at the outside border of cities. In correlation with the individualization of death and the bourgeois appropriation of the cemetery, there arises an obsession with death as an ‘illness.’ The dead, it is supposed, bring illnesses to the living, and it is the presence and proximity of the dead right beside the houses, next to the church, almost in the middle of the street, it is this proximity that propagates death itself. This major theme of illness spread by the contagion in the cemeteries persisted until the end of the eighteenth century, until, during the nineteenth century, the shift of cemeteries toward the suburbs was initiated. The cemeteries then came to constitute, no longer the sacred and immortal heart of the city, but the other city, where each family possesses its dark resting place.
Third principle. The heterotopia is capable of juxtaposing in a single real place several spaces, several sites that are in themselves incompatible. Thus it is that the theater brings onto the rectangle of the stage, one after the other, a whole series of places that are foreign to one another; thus it is that the cinema is a very odd rectangular room, at the end of which, on a two-dimensional screen, one sees the projection of a three-dimensional space, but perhaps the oldest example of these heterotopias that take the form of contradictory sites is the garden. We must not forget that in the Orient the garden, an astonishing creation that is now a thousand years old, had very deep and seemingly superimposed meanings. The traditional garden of the Persians was a sacred space that was supposed to bring together inside its rectangle four parts representing the four parts of the world, with a space still more sacred than the others that were like an umbilicus, the navel of the world at its center (the basin and water fountain were there); and all the vegetation of the garden was supposed to come together in this space, in this sort of microcosm. As for carpets, they were originally reproductions of gardens (the garden is a rug onto which the whole world comes to enact its symbolic perfection, and the rug is a sort of garden that can move across space). The garden is the smallest parcel of the world and then it is the totality of the world. The garden has been a sort of happy, universalizing heterotopia since the beginnings of antiquity (our modern zoological gardens spring from that source).
Fourth principle. Heterotopias are most often linked to slices in time - which is to say that they open onto what might be termed, for the sake of symmetry, heterochronies. The heterotopia begins to function at full capacity when men arrive at a sort of absolute break with their traditional time. This situation shows us that the cemetery is indeed a highly heterotopic place since, for the individual, the cemetery begins with this strange heterochrony, the loss of life, and with this quasi-eternity in which her permanent lot is dissolution and disappearance.
From a general standpoint, in a society like ours heterotopias and heterochronies are structured and distributed in a relatively complex fashion. First of all, there are heterotopias of indefinitely accumulating time, for example museums and libraries, Museums and libraries have become heterotopias in which time never stops building up and topping its own summit, whereas in the seventeenth century, even at the end of the century, museums and libraries were the expression of an individual choice. By contrast, the idea of accumulating everything, of establishing a sort of general archive, the will to enclose in one place all times, all epochs, all forms, all tastes, the idea of constituting a place of all times that is itself outside of time and inaccessible to its ravages, the project of organizing in this way a sort of perpetual and indefinite accumulation of time in an immobile place, this whole idea belongs to our modernity. The museum and the library are heterotopias that are proper to western culture of the nineteenth century.
Opposite these heterotopias that are linked to the accumulation of time, there are those linked, on the contrary, to time in its most flowing, transitory, precarious aspect, to time in the mode of the festival. These heterotopias are not oriented toward the eternal, they are rather absolutely temporal [chroniques]. Such, for example, are the fairgrounds, these’ marvelous empty sites on the outskirts of cities that teem once or twice a year with stands, displays, heteroclite objects, wrestlers, snakewomen, fortune-tellers, and so forth. Quite recently, a new kind of temporal heterotopia has been invented: vacation villages, such as those Polynesian villages that offer a compact three weeks of primitive and eternal nudity to the inhabitants of the cities. You see, moreover, that through the two forms of heterotopias that come together here, the heterotopia of the festival and that of the eternity of accumulating time, the huts of Djerba are in a sense relatives of libraries and museums. for the rediscovery of Polynesian life abolishes time; yet the experience is just as much the„ rediscovery of time, it is as if the entire history of humanity reaching back to its origin were accessible in a sort of immediate knowledge,
Fifth principle. Heterotopias always presuppose a system of opening and closing that both isolates them and makes them penetrable. In general, the heterotopic site is not freely accessible like a public place. Either the entry is compulsory, as in the case of entering a barracks or a prison, or else the individual has to submit to rites and purifications. To get in one must have a certain permission and make certain gestures. Moreover, there are even heterotopias that are entirely consecrated to these activities of purification -purification that is partly religious and partly hygienic, such as the hammin of the Moslems, or else purification that appears to be purely hygienic, as in Scandinavian saunas.
There are others, on the contrary, that seem to be pure and simple openings, but that generally hide curious exclusions. Everyone can enter into thew heterotopic sites, but in fact that is only an illusion- we think we enter where we are, by the very fact that we enter, excluded. I am thinking for example, of the famous bedrooms that existed on the great farms of Brazil and elsewhere in South America. The entry door did not lead into the central room where the family lived, and every individual or traveler who came by had the right to ope this door, to enter into the bedroom and to sleep there for a night. Now these bedrooms were such that the individual who went into them never had access to the family’s quarter the visitor was absolutely the guest in transit, was not really the invited guest. This type of heterotopia, which has practically disappeared from our civilizations, could perhaps be found in the famous American motel rooms where a man goes with his car and his mistress and where illicit sex is both absolutely sheltered and absolutely hidden, kept isolated without however being allowed out in the open.
Sixth principle. The last trait of heterotopias is that they have a function in relation to all the space that remains. This function unfolds between two extreme poles. Either their role is to create a space of illusion that exposes every real space, all the sites inside of which human life is partitioned, as still more illusory (perhaps that is the role that was played by those famous brothels of which we are now deprived). Or else, on the contrary, their role is to create a space that is other, another real space, as perfect, as meticulous, as well arranged as ours is messy, ill constructed, and jumbled. This latter type would be the heterotopia, not of illusion, but of compensation, and I wonder if certain colonies have not functioned somewhat in this manner. In certain cases, they have played, on the level of the general organization of terrestrial space, the role of heterotopias. I am thinking, for example, of the first wave of colonization in the seventeenth century, of the Puritan societies that the English had founded in America and that were absolutely perfect other places. I am also thinking of those extraordinary Jesuit colonies that were founded in South America: marvelous, absolutely regulated colonies in which human perfection was effectively achieved. The Jesuits of Paraguay established colonies in which existence was regulated at every turn. The village was laid out according to a rigorous plan around a rectangular place at the foot of which was the church; on one side, there was the school; on the other, the cemetery-, and then, in front of the church, an avenue set out that another crossed at fight angles; each family had its little cabin along these two axes and thus the sign of Christ was exactly reproduced. Christianity marked the space and geography of the American world with its fundamental sign.
The daily life of individuals was regulated, not by the whistle, but by the bell. Everyone was awakened at the same time, everyone began work at the same time; meals were at noon and five o’clock-, then came bedtime, and at midnight came what was called the marital wake-up, that is, at the chime of the churchbell, each person carried out her/his duty.
Brothels and colonies are two extreme types of heterotopia, and if we think, after all, that the boat is a floating piece of space, a place without a place, that exists by itself, that is closed in on itself and at the same time is given over to the infinity of the sea and that, from port to port, from tack to tack, from brothel to brothel, it goes as far as the colonies in search of the most precious treasures they conceal in their gardens, you will understand why the boat has not only been for our civilization, from the sixteenth century until the present, the great instrument of economic development (I have not been speaking of that today), but has been simultaneously the greatest reserve of the imagination. The ship is the heterotopia par excellence. In civilizations without boats, dreams dry up, espionage takes the place of adventure, and the police take the place of pirates.
Art Deco News.Com interviewed Art Deco architecture expert Rex M. Ball who recently made his third visit to the 400-year-old South American city.
Q: Describe the style and characteristics of Art Deco structures you observed and the similarities and differences between what you observed in Rio and Art Deco elsewhere in the world.
A: All styles of Art Deco are represented, with an interesting mix of Zigzag and Streamline. The influence of Miami Beach Deco (tropical) is strong in the early work, but in the late 1930s, International Style Design begins to appear in a kind of mix. Again, Cape Town and Rio have several buildings that have a similar appearance. Perhaps the similarity is due to both being thriving ports at the same time. No Art Deco monument is as strong as the heroic Christ The Redeemer Statue. It is as much of a worldwide landmark in its own way as the Memorial in Pretoria, South Africa.
Bonus, pic of Christ the Redeemer statue, from elsewhere on the web:
‘Water in Historic City Centres’ has Mechelen as its proving ground
The first project for the ‘Water in Historic City Centres’ (WIHCC) project has been completed in Mechelen, Belgium. The Melaan, a tributary of the Dijle river, has been excavated and newly landscaped in the old city centre of Mechelen.
WIHCC is a European collaborative project between the cities of Breda (NL), ‘s-Hertogenbosch (NL), Gent (B), Mechelen (B) Chester (UK) and Limerick (IE). The project was set up within the framework of the European Interreg (Interregional Cooperation Programme) for North-West Europe (NWE). The project has roughly reached its halfway stage: the opening conference took place in November 2003, and the closing event is planned for November 2007 in Breda.
Image courtesy OKRA Landscape Architects
The title of the project reflects the increasingly central role that water is playing in the economic and spatial intensification of old city centres that have a historic relationship with water. In addition, there is a growing problem – but also a challenge – of good water management in many NWE cities.
Water returns to the city
Water and Mechelen are inextricably bound up together. The water network of the Dijle river and its tributaries covers the entire city. The Dijle was originally three times wider than it is now, and had various arms and tributaries, which have disappeared through silting up, or have narrowed into small streams alongside the places where streets and houses were built. The streams, such as the Melaan, were originally used for water transport, as drains and for washing. Most of the streams were arched over, because they were seen as breeding grounds of disease. The Melaan was filled in, to make space for cars and parking places and for hygienic reasons.
Image courtesy OKRA Landscape Architects
After more than a century, the embankments of the Melaan stream are now being uncovered once more. Their walls are still in very good condition. The same applies to the Minderbroeders bridge, which still largely survives. The restoration of the Melaan stream is a substantial element of the task of bringing water back to this historic quarter. Once all the work has been completed, by the summer of 2006, the Melaan stream will once more flow through Mechelen in all its glory.
Because of the filling in of the stream in the Melaan, the logical layout of this area of Mechelen disappeared. It is no longer clear why the profile is so wide. Why do many of the buildings stand with the blank walls of their rears towards the street? The logic of the location is no longer there.
By bringing back water into the profile of the Melaan, this place will be given back its logic, and will become attractive and liveable once more. The Melaan will then once again form a part of the historic core fabric of the city. Water has become the catalyst of this urban development. Multiple aims will be served. The integral approach is of vital importance here: archaeology, the plan for school transport on the Melaan, mobility in general, a tourist axis between Lamot and St. Rombout’s cathedral and the renewed city centre all form essential aspects of the development.
Reconstruction of the Mechelen Melaan
Around the Grote Markt lies a cluster of squares and small streets. This is the historic core fabric of the city, in which the Grote Markt, IJzerenleen, Vismarkt, Melaan, Schoenmarkt and Saint Rombout’s Cathedral Square will form one of the central circuits.
Image courtesy OKRA Landscape Architects
These locations all have their own meaning in the historical fabric. Within this, the Melaan will acquire the allure of water, as a result of the reconstruction of the historic stream that will form an element of the city centre. The newly laid out Melaan will then exude an attractive atmosphere that invites one to linger and quietly enjoy. The public space will become the showpiece of the city, so that the city centre will attract more people from the wider city and the region than it does now. The Melaan will become a tangible element within the network of historic public spaces in the city centre of Mechelen.
In fact, the development of the Melaan does not only mean the opening up of a stream in the centre of the city, but also the creation of a new location with meaning. It will become a new quayside in the heart of the city: a quay along which people will live, on which people will work, where small boats will have their moorings, where people will take a stroll. It is also a quay that offers opportunities for long-term transformation, both in the buildings and in the public space. The atmosphere of the quay will be made unique by the materials that reflect the old stream. Here you can experience water in the midst of the city bustle. The stream and the quay need to reflect a feeling of encounter between the city and the water. It will be a quayside for strolling and peaceful recreation. This calls for an attractive and balanced layout, with fine historic materials and appealing street furniture.
The Melaan is a special space in the city centre of Mechelen. The profile of the space has an asymmetrical character. The road hugs the southern gable walls, and many of the walls on the northern side are blank. The reconstruction of the stream will only reinforce this character. The blank walls stand in the water, as it were, and a water channel runs through the space on one side. This beautiful asymmetrical scene is the inspiration for the design.
Image courtesy OKRA Landscape Architects
Two lines will delineate the Melaan in the future: the route line and the water line. They are two different worlds – two different movements – in one and the same space: the world of the car and the world of strolling by the water. The route for cars and bicycles is laid out as efficiently and functionally as possible. A curved road trace delineates the scene, and parking places are situated directly on the street. Bands of natural stone mark the road trace, and give the road its historic reference, while trees alongside the road mark the continuity of the scene.
The line of the water, of the stream, has a completely different character. Here the historic course of the water defines the atmosphere. Old quay walls have been rediscovered and will be built up. These quay walls mark the banks of the stream, and are topped off with a wide natural stone strip. On the north side of the stream the walls of the buildings make up the quayside. Because of this, the buildings stand in the water, and so form a bank alongside the stream. This gives the Melaan an asymmetrical profile: a characteristic that will be reprised in all facets of the design. A profile of contrasts: between a high and a low quay, between slow and fast traffic, greenery and stone, water and land, and so on.
Image courtesy OKRA Landscape Architects
The zone between the stream and the route over the Melaan is a margin that constantly changes in width. A zone in which to linger, to read a book in the sun or to sit beside the water. This margin is executed as a low quay, meaning that the pedestrian can get closer to the water of the stream. The water is a tangible presence, and contributes to the leafy, peaceful atmosphere that characterises this part of the profile. Through the difference in height between the road level and the low quay, a rim of around forty centimetres in height is created, which functions as a low bench to sit on. In some parts of the Melaan the bench disappears, and automatically leads to the high quay via steps.
The new stream of the Melaan will acquire no less than five bridges. The two vehicle bridges will form a part of the city network. If possible, these bridges will be restored or reconstructed. The three footbridges over the stream have a completely different character, being entrances to buildings on the other side of the stream. The signature of the bridges is contemporary. They are small cable-stayed bridges with the low quay as their jumping-off point.
Image courtesy OKRA Landscape Architects
The Melaan will become an element of the historic core fabric of the city of Mechelen, and will be developed as such. The Grote Markt is also a major element of this fabric, and has been newly laid out, with very attractive results. In our view, the Grote Markt is the calibration point for the choice of materials for the Melaan. The basic paving for the Melaan will be made up of the same cobblestones as have been used for the Grote Markt. The main lines of the design are set out in natural stone bands. The bench rim between the high and the low quay is composed of an element specifically designed for this location.
The plan for the Melaan in Mechelen has been developed within the framework of a multiple commission from the city of Mechelen. Bureaux from Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland competed for this multiple commission, which was ultimately granted by the city of Mechelen to theOKRA Landscape Architects bv bureau from the Netherlands.
Together with the city of Mechelen and the Spatial Advice Studio, OKRA developed a sketch design into its definitive form. In addition, the Spatial Advice Studio took responsibility for technical development, while the city of Mechelen acted as the supervisory body. The plan has currently been completed, and we would like to make some observations with regard to this collaboration.
For public spaces in Belgium, it applies that work is done on a project basis, and not on the basis of comprehensive master plans. The result of this is that, in general, a practical approach is taken to the work, so that the possibility arises that the coherence between projects within a city is lost. In the Netherlands, project issues are usually solved in advance in meetings, whereby a culture of endless consultation has come about. The civil service apparatus per number of inhabitants is also considerably higher in the Netherlands than in Belgium. In the Belgian situation, many issues are tackled on the work floor in a practical way. In the Netherlands, the emphasis lies much more on an intricate network of responsibilities. In Belgium, by contrast, it is much more about the right personal expertise in the right place.
Image courtesy OKRA Landscape Architects
To carry out work in the Netherlands you need a large organisation, where knowledge is stored in a sort of ‘abstract location’. In Belgium, the people who identify a problem are also the ones that are involved in its solution. This creates learning experiences for the future. Safety on the work floor is a good example of this. In Belgium you have a safety officer on site who personally supervises safety issues. In the Netherlands, much more is established in rules and regulations. When problems arise, claims are fallen back on.
As a Dutch bureau working in Belgium, we have been able to learn a great deal about Belgian working methods. In Belgium, an effective team works on the plan, with short lines of communication, and traditional working methods are oriented towards quality and project completion.
Project: Reconstruction of the Mechelen Melaan Location: Mechelen, Belgium Organisation and Supervision: City of Mechelen Landscape Architects: OKRA Landscape Architects | http://www.okra.nl/ Specifications and Supervision: ARA, Spatial Advice Workshop Contractor: Interplant n.v. Photographer: Ben ter Mull
architects’ own words: ‘…like an invisible metastasis generated in the heart of the city and extending to all its arteries. neighborhoods that, although having huge potential, lay unused, not promoting a good means of sustainable development. we recognize this as a typical theme in the central neighborhoods in valencia. sometimes, the tourists are the city’s inhabitants pay attention to the issue at hand for a moment because secondary problems stemming from those spaces implied affect us directly. however, in most cases, they are only a part of daily way of life. this photographic body of work aims to call people’s attention to these neglected spaces. it demands the recreational use of these vacant lots as seen through the eyes of a child, by filling them with impossible constructions, surrealistic installations in line with the problem. (…)’
German architectural firm Peter Ruge Architektenproposed renovation and reconstruction of an old factory into a high quality hotel and office building in Hangzhou, China.
The site is the historical Hangzhou Machine factory, the building concept aims to create a harmony of the sites inherent industrial character with a modern interior aesthetic.
The Xintiandi old factory will be renovated into a high quality building with a combination of functions including offices, retail, hotel and multi-purpose area.
Xintiandi Factory Hangzhou - Existence, image courtesy Peter Ruge Architekten
Xintiandi Factory Hangzhou, render courtesy Peter Ruge Architekten
It plays a most important role in our design proposal to maintain the existing industrial structure and characteristics as much as possible. In order to accomplish the transition of the interior structure all the new spaces distributed across the four floors are organized along the exterior elevation, while in the central area of the architecture, a capacious space is retained. The length of the space is equal to the existing fabric on the horizontal level. In elevation it extends throughout all the floors. The beautiful steel roof frame structure will be retained and encased by a new glass roof, flooding the space with natural light and forming a connection between the buildings interior and exterior.
Xintiandi Factory Hangzhou, render courtesy Peter Ruge Architekten
The energy of the architecture and its surroundings will flow through the capacious lobby in an undulated way and exert positive influence on the architecture.
Xintiandi Factory Hangzhou - Elevations, drawing courtesy Peter Ruge Architekten
The existing concrete facade and window to the south and north sides will be completely removed. The protruding steel-frame structure extends 1 meter beyond the existing skin. The form of the building will conserve the structure of the foundries old steel funnel. The regular structure of the steel frame echoes the horizontal and vertical grids of the architecture. Consecutively, the protruding parts of the steel-frame structure on all floors highlights the wall new connection of the existing brick walls.
These steel- frame structures are creating a double curtain wall facade. The outside layer is constructed of fall-protection glass with air seams, and the inside layer is a flexible sliding door with insulation glass. A two-storey tall outer elevation steel- frame structure and a LED multimedia display screen can be viewed from the roads near the south and north elevations.
The design of this new facade will not only demonstrate the harmony between modern and historical industrial structures, but also establish a unique architectural language that considers both past and present.
Project: Xinitiandi Factory Hangzhou Location: Hangzhou, Zheijang Province, P.R. China Size: Plot: 8.100 sqm, GFA: 17.900 sqm Duration: 2010-2011 Completion: Circa 2013 Client: Hangzhou New Land Group Co., Ltd Architect: Pysal Ruge Architekten | http://www.peter-ruge.de/ Peter Ruge, Matthias Matschewski, Hysook Ahn, Alexander Andrejew, Byoung Gil Jung, Lucas Gray, Tatjana Sinelnikova, Maria Katschalova, Project partner: DBH Stadtplanungs GmbH, Hangzhou Brief: Renovation and reconstruction of an old cast iron workshop into a multi-functional modern complex for shopping, offices and hotel in order to maximize the preservation of the industrial heritage Scope of services: Analysis, concept, design planning, preperation of approval documents, main detail planning, coordination of local engineers, monitoring of approval and execution documents.
+ All drawings and images courtesy Peter Ruge Architekten