From Design To Function

Developments such as the urban beautification and garden city movements were largely tangential to the underlying dynamics of capitalist urbanization, yet they remain one of the most influential dimensions to urban design. If we shift our attention, however, towards the function rather than the design of urban space we find that the transformation of nature is far more pervasive and complex than it might first appear. The production of urban nature is inseparable, for example, from the development of urban technological networks which served to bind the modern city into a more integrated spatial form. The central cores of older cities were modernized to make way for roads, railways and speculative land development forcing the working classes into ghettos and industrial districts of intense poverty. The "Haussmann approach" of comprehensive reconstruction pioneered in Second Empire Paris was also extended to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Cologne and many other cities (see Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona 1994). Yet this impetus towards spatial rationalization was not without its critics. In Vienna, for example, Otto Wagner attempted to create a modern city based around light, space and ease of movement, but his vision was challenged by Camillo Sitte with his rejection of utilitarian rationalism (see Harvey 1989; Schorske 1981). Wagner's disavowal of nature as an organizational impetus for urban design was not shared, however, by all of the leading figures within the modernist movement: Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright, for example, continued to place nature at the centre of their work even if their conception of the modern city conflicted with the more vernacular urbanisms of the past.

From the late nineteenth century onwards urban planning emerged as a clearly defined discipline accompanied by the growing role of technical elites in the institutions of modern governance. From the 1880s onwards, for example, innovations such as land use zoning and regional planning gathered momentum. Technical and administrative expertise played an increasingly significant role in the modern repertoire of "governmentality" and the management of complex urban societies. By the early twentieth century we find increasing emphasis on the "scientific management" of cities in the segregated and hierarchical ordering of urban space. Earlier attempts to create a Utopian synthesis of nature and culture were gradually supplanted by a more radical technologically inspired vision. Progressively greater emphasis was placed on the radical separation of land uses in the "hygienic city" so that light, air and movement took precedence over the congested mingling of land uses in the nineteenth-century city. The idea of "speed" became the focal point for a new urban imaginary rooted in the creative destruction of the past. These technological fantasies reached their apogee in the designs of Italian futurists such as Antonio Sant'Elia with his emphasis on multi-level roadways as a means to perfect the circulatory dynamics of urban space. The sketches and plans for these technological utopias depict towering new buildings and virtually empty roads in an era before post-war congestion and the grassroots political challenge to the excesses of technological modernism.

The ideology of "hygienism" in twentieth-century urban planning belied the persistence of environmental and miasmic conceptions of the healthy city in combination with the post-bacteriological revolution in the scientific management of space: free circulation of both air and people was both a Utopian gesture towards the horrors of the nineteenth-century city but also an attempt to create a new kind of organic unity within the modern metropolis. The early decades of the twentieth century saw attempts to forge closer links between urban nature and the public realm so that the earlier innovations of municipal parks, improved sanitation and pedagogic displays of nature in zoos and museums could be extended to encompass a more ambitious conception of the role of nature in the modern city. Under the American New Deal, for example, we can discern a shift towards an expanded conception of urban nature to encompass a wider programme of social reform including improvements in health, housing and urban infrastructure. The reshaping of nature on behalf of the modern city also encompassed vast engineering projects to provide water and power so that the new landscapes of dams and aqueducts in the American West, for example, cannot be conceived independently from the vast urban agglomerations with which they are connected. Yet the earlier associations of water engineering projects with a progressive political agenda, whether in Roosevelt's America or Nehru's India, have now waned to the extent that many of these engineering projects have become a leitmotif for the rapacious impact of modern cities on impoverished and politically marginalized rural communities (see, for example, Cutler 1985; Roy 2002).

In the twentieth century the changing relationship between nature, technology and urban space was driven to a significant degree by the spread of car ownership. This technological dynamic transcended national differences to the extent that we can discern striking similarities between the landscaped highways of Germany, Italy and the United States. In Martin Wagner's plans for 1920s Berlin, for example, the need for regional mobility was combined with the development of new peripheral housing estates. Wagner attempted to re-organize urban space in order to promote the greatest possible human happiness so that the rationalization of social and economic life and the rationalization of space became inseparable facets of the same process (see Scarpa 1986). Similarly, in Fritz Schumacher's plans for Hamburg (1909) and Cologne (1920) the centres of these cities were to be opened out with parks and public spaces to foster a new kind of leisure-oriented metropolitan culture (see, for example, Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona 1994). And in the United States, Robert Moses brought a distinctively car dominated vision to the modernization of the New York metropolitan region within which middle-class aspirations would play a decisive role. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, however, the construction of urban highways began to open up a conflict between the centralized engineering dominated ethos behind infrastructure development and growing demands for greater public participation in urban planning. The ideal metropolis conceived by technical experts and urban managers was increasingly in conflict with the lived reality of the modern city. Urban planning faced the disintegration of the kind of putative "public interest" which had sustained the ideal of comprehensive urban renewal. Planners themselves increasingly recognized that the ideal of "master planning" was illusory and began to explore ways of bolstering their legitimacy through wider public consultation. Patterns of infrastructure investment that had previously been conceived as integral to urban revitalization had now become directly implicated in postwar urban decline and the destruction of city life (see Gandy 2002). In the US, for example, the collapse of the consensus over highway construction in the 1960s mirrors the broader dissolution of the New Deal bipartisan consensus in public policy. The close interrelation between discourses of urban planning and the progressive impulses of modernist thought gradually began to unravel in the face of combined fiscal and political challenges. As urban planning became increasingly dominated by massive state subventions for corporate sectors such as cars and real estate we find an increasing polarization in space between grim housing projects for the working classes and the burgeoning suburbia of middle-class consumer aspirations. With the rise of the fragmentary metropolis the designed landscape was increasingly an adjunct to corporate atria, speculative housing developments and other market-led responses to the urban crisis of 1960s and 1970s. In a sense, therefore, the ideological resonance of nature had come full circle to emulate the ad hoc interventions of the past: the role that metropolitan nature had played in the building of a functional public realm had been gradually supplanted by a more piecemeal emphasis on the decorative contributions of nature to the design of urban space.

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

How would you like to save a ton of money and increase the value of your home by as much as thirty percent! If your homes landscape is designed properly it will be a source of enjoyment for your entire family, it will enhance your community and add to the resale value of your property. Landscape design involves much more than placing trees, shrubs and other plants on the property. It is an art which deals with conscious arrangement or organization of outdoor space for human satisfaction and enjoyment.

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