Power And City Planning

In this enlightened age we dismiss magical models of the universe together with the gods which sustain the universe. We still, however, accept the psychological efficacy of some of the forms which control behaviour. These ideas still permeate Western city building. China and India have left to posterity the most highly developed heritage of cosmic city models. Nearer home, however, in Africa, Egypt and Etruscan Rome, similar traditions have been followed. These ancient traditions in the symbolic expression of power have been absorbed into Western civilization. For example, the ideal city of the Renaissance was in part a symbol of the

Sixtus City Planning Rome
Figure 6.9 Rome and Sixtus V

mathematical order and unity of the universe. In contrast, Baroque city planning with its use of interconnected axes was used by Pope Sixtus V to stamp his and the Church's authority on Rome. As a device to symbolize power, the axial arrangement of streets became the model for other potentates and was used in Karlsruhe, Figure 6.10 Rome:

Germany, by L'Enfant in Washington and termination of the vista at by Hausmann in Paris (Figures 6.9-6.16). S. Maria Maggiore

Karlsruhe Urban Design


Figure 6.11 Karlsruhe (Morris, 1972) Figure 6.12 Plan of Washington DC (Lynch, 1981)

Figure 6.13 Washington, (a) The Capitol; (b) the Washington Monument Figure 6.14 Paris: transformation by Hausmann


Figure 6.11 Karlsruhe (Morris, 1972) Figure 6.12 Plan of Washington DC (Lynch, 1981)

Figure 6.13 Washington, (a) The Capitol; (b) the Washington Monument Figure 6.14 Paris: transformation by Hausmann


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In Ireland, the authority of Britain was stamped upon town form. For example, in Roscommon the axis of the long main street terminates in the Court House and the towering shape beyond of the jail where the state's ultimate sanction, execution, took place. The stone-built jail, still in good condition, has had several lives, being converted first into a Lunatic Asylum, then Tourist Office and now the home of boutiques - an example of the conservation and reuse of a building with a grim past (Figures 6.17 and 6.18).

These forbidding instruments of civic power did not end with Hausmann in Paris, or even with Lutyens in New Delhi: they persist in the urban structuring of today. These ancient devices of control still maintain their psychological power. For

Avenue Opera Plan

Figure 6.15 Paris. (a) Avenue de L'Opera; (b) boulevard Figure 6.16 Plan of New Delhi Figure 6.17 Roscommon, Ireland: The courthouse with jail beyond

3 Central Visu

4 Council House


Figure 6.15 Paris. (a) Avenue de L'Opera; (b) boulevard Figure 6.16 Plan of New Delhi Figure 6.17 Roscommon, Ireland: The courthouse with jail beyond

3 Central Visu

4 Council House


Roscommon Jail
Figure 6.18 Roscommon, Ireland: former jail

example, a boundary wall or privet hedge with garden gate still encircles the Englishman's semi-detached castle, forbidding entry to unwelcome guests. Less urbanely, the high-income residential complex in the United States of America is surrounded by a strong protective wall and entered through a guarded gateway. The parade route is still important for British pageantry: the Queen on state occasions takes possession of her capital city, processing from Buckingham Palace to Parliament or St. Paul's Cathedral. The annual parade in Moscow of the Red Army, together with its lethal firepower,

Figure 6.19 Protestant March, Belfast

Figure 6.19 Protestant March, Belfast

is a blatant exercise in control. In Northern Ireland during the 'marching season' in July, the Orange Lodges with pipe band and fearful Lambeg drum reassert the Protestant right to city territory. Provocatively, the Orange march is always planned to invade or skirt sensitive Catholic areas: the route is festooned with arches and banners proclaiming the Protestant ascendancy (Figure 6.19). The landmark is a symbol of possession: the possession of the land.

The landmark of the modern city is the tall building, which dominates its surroundings. Business corporations have been competing to build the tallest skyscraper, following the example set by the powerful Medieval families in cities like San Gimignano (Figures 6.20 and 6.21). The sheer size and scale of some recent urban developments dominate and are meant to dominate the city and its citizens (Figure 6.22). Bilateral symmetry and elevation are key formal cues which are still used to emphasize position and power. The high table at College is an example in the use of physical cues to reinforce status. Staff and honoured guests sit elevated above the rest of the College while the Dean, Director or Warden sits at the head of the table on the axis dominating the occasion.

The distribution of land uses, together with the condition and density of the buildings which give the land uses three-dimensional form, graphically illustrate the disparities in wealth and power of the groups occupying city space. Harvey (1973) documented this particular phenomenon, showing how spatial use in a city is organized to favour those with wealth, while the powerless members of society are located in the least



Figure 6.20 San Gimignano Figure 6.21 New York: roofscape

Figure 6.22 Romania, Palace of the People. (Photograph by Neil Leach)

advantageous positions. In Third World cities this fact of urban life is visibly apparent. The poor occupy areas euphemistically called 'spontaneous development', slums of temporary, make-shift housing without services or sanitation. The poorest of the poor are often consigned to unstable land, that is, to areas liable to flash flooding and erosion (Figure 6.23).


How far should the sustainable city of the future jettison these anachronisms from the past? Or how far is it possible to do so? Sustainable development has for its philosophical and intellectual foundation three basic values: equity, citizen participation and good husbandry. The sustainable city is one that nurtures both man and the environment: its function as far as man is concerned is one of enabling. This process of enabling is predicated on the notion of democracy, some would suggest a highly participatory democracy. The city should give form to these basic values: a new symbolism is necessary to give expression to the new sustainable city structures. The sustainable city is not one that consigns the poor to cardboard box cultures, a homeless underclass occupying the space beneath the viaduct. The sustainable city does not emphasize private affluence and the policing technologies which maintain the relative peace in enclaves of privilege.

It would be unwise to reject all that originated with the birth of city life in ancient times. A fortunate result of many religious preoccupations, including Chinese geomancy, has often been a harmonious setting for urban development, a by-product of the great care taken with the siting of towns and buildings or the organization of landscapes. This heritage should not be lost in any restructuring of the principles of city planning and design. Many of the ideas originating from groups representing the richer hues of the green movement have overtones of, almost, a religious fervour. These more extreme green ideas extol the virtues of living within the laws of nature and attuned to the greater unity of the planet which is personified as an Earth Mother or all-encompassing being. Without going quite to these lengths it is clear that a respect for nature is something we can and must learn from the earlier periods of man's evolution. An important quality of the nurturing city would be the conservation and development of natural multi-functional landscapes within its boundaries, as outlined in Chapter 5.

Equally important would be the conservation of the building stock: the 'throwaway society' of Toffler has no place in the sustainable city. Conservation and a 'make-do-and-mend' process will inform urban development policies. The conservation movement, however, is more than simply being concerned with the conservation of energy: it represents a philosophy of life which relates people to their traditional roots, to those great urban traditions going back 5000 years.

The skyline of the fully developed sustainable city may be similar in form to the pre-twentieth century city, pierced only by the towers which remain as a memory of former state, municipal, commercial or religious power centres. Most new additions to the sustainable city will be limited in height to three or four storeys built in a regional architecture using regional materials and probably learning much from local traditions of building. The city spaces, its streets, squares and parks, will be pedestrian-centred and designed for a walking pace: transport, being predominantly public, will thread its way carefully through the pedestrian and cycle-dominated network of city pathways. This may sound utopian, and at one level it is, but this city form follows logically from the adoption of a philosophy which accepts sustainability as both necessary and desirable.


According to Lynch (1981) there are three main metaphors which attempt to explain city form. The magical metaphor for the earliest ceremonial centres of religious ritual attempted, as already discussed, to link the city to the cosmos and the environment. The other normative metaphors are the analogy of the machine and the analogy of the organism. The city, like the house, was seen by some modernist architects as 'a machine for living in'. In contrast, many planners following Geddes (1949) and Mumford (1938, 1946a, 1961) described the city as organic in an extension of ecological analysis. These main normative theories have generated a series of model city structures, concepts such as: the central city; the star-shaped city; the linear city; the grid-iron city; polynucleated cities; and the dispersed city. From these basic concepts of city form additional hybrid concepts have been developed such as the figure-of-eight structure used by Ling for Runcorn New Town (Figure 6.24).

The concept of the city as a machine is quite different from conceptualizing it as a microcosm of the universe, as a perfect unity modelled on the universe. The idea of the city as a machine is not purely a twentieth-century phenomenon - its roots lie much deeper. During the twentieth century, however, the idea was developed and

Runcorn 1971
Figure 6.24 Runcorn, structure diagram

Figure 6.25 The radiant city (Le Corbusier, 1967). © FLC/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 1997

Figure 6.26 Linear city by Soria y Mata (Hugo-Brunt, 1972)

Figure 6.27 Cité Industrielle by Gamier (Wiebenson, undated)

Residential zone

Heavy Industry elevated to a predominant position by movements such as Futurism and the writings of Le Corbusier (1946, 1947, 1967, 1971), particularly his project for the radiant city (Figure 6.25). Other landmarks in the development of this theme, the city as machine, are the linear suburbs for Madrid by Arturo Soria y Mata in 1894 and the Cité Industrielle by Tony Gamier (Figures 6.26 and 6.27). The linear suburbs of Soria y Mata ran between two major radiais of the city and were intended to encircle the whole of Madrid. They were designed to provide cheap housing for the middle classes. The main feature of the proposal was a tree-lined boulevard along which ran a private streetcar. The streetcar connected the linear arrangement of house plots with transport routes to the city centre. Unlike the later suggestions of Gamier, the Madrid project was built and operated by the designer's family until the 1930s. Garnier's project for the Cité Industrielle was on a much greater scale. The city was to be served by a linear transport route with the land uses segregated and arranged in linear fashion along its length. Both linear urban projects, like the work of Le Corbusier, place great emphasis on the transport system. Le Corbusier's designs were primarily concerned with the glorification of the motorcar while Soria y Mata was developing ideas about mass transport.

The city, when thought of as a machine, is composed of small parts linked like the cogs in a wheel: all the parts have clear functions and separate motions. In its most expressive form it can have the clarity of a crystal or be a daring exhibition of rationality. In this form it is seen in the heroic or early modern work of Le Corbusier both in his architectural forms and monumental city planning projects (Figures 6.28 and 6.29). It can also appear coldly functional with undertones of social dominance and state control. Miliutin develops the machine theme to an extreme in his ideas for Sotsgorod (Miliutin, 1973). He uses the analogy of the power station or the assembly line for the city. Miliutin also pays great attention to transportation and, like Garnier, separates the city into autonomous parts or separate land uses.

The city as machine is as old as civilization itself. The machine is not only the complex assembly line made famous by Chaplin in Hard Times, it also predates the nineteenth century and the industrial revolution. A machine can be as simple as a lever or a pulley or that great invention, the wheel. The concept of the city as machine can be found in the plans for the workers' villages in Pharaonic Egypt (Figure 6.30). The concept is based on the use of the regular grid plan which is used for ease of development. All the parts are repeated in a regular pattern. The Greeks when establishing a colony also used a standard pattern of development in long narrow

Figure 6.28 Building by Le Corbusier, Stuttgart Figure 6.29 Drawing by Le Corbusier (Le Corbusier, 1967). © FLC/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 1997 Figure 6.30 Workers' village, Amarna, Egypt (Fairman, 1949)

blocks, per strigas (Figure 6.31). It is an easy and quick method of development. It has often been used throughout history for colonial foundations or the planning of a new city. Another important example is the Roman military camp. The cardo and decumanus, the main streets of the camp, cross at right-angles and connect the main gateways. The layout of the two main axes crossing at right-angles was used by the Romans over large landscapes as a method of land sub-division (Figures 6.32-6.34).

Figure 6.28 Building by Le Corbusier, Stuttgart Figure 6.29 Drawing by Le Corbusier (Le Corbusier, 1967). © FLC/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 1997 Figure 6.30 Workers' village, Amarna, Egypt (Fairman, 1949)

Corbusier Ideal City


Paris Urban Design Layout


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