Last week I was present at two lectures that covered two very distinctive city conditions. First one was by Dr. Prof. Nobuo Mishima from Saga University, Japan that took place at our faculty; the second one was by Joshua David co-founder of Friends of the High Line, New York which happened at Thailand Creative Design Centre .
Prof. Mishima presented the research that they have conducted on preservation of a historic local town with traditional heritage located in Ariake Lowland. What they have done is develop a two way evacuation route, since the traditional houses had a number of problems with fires and earthquakes. They had developed a thorough research on how the citizens of the town can evacuate easily through the small streets in the traditional old part. What came very interesting to me is that these trajectories of movement have been marked by them through PARTICIPATION with the citizens. They created a large database and conducted interviews which helped them understand the movement of the citizens, and to come to a conclusion which trajectory of movement would be the most suitable one for evacuation. They also worked financed by the Japanese government on preserving the traditional architecture with traditional materials, EXISTING landscape and nature. He pointed out that at the moment more public space and COMMON space was necessary, in order for the local settlers to engage with the newcomers. Their study was quite successful due to the PARTICIPATION with the locals and involving them in the process of preserving the town.
The second lecture was on New York’s High Line. Joshua David (journalist by profession) is one of the founders of the whole initiative for the High Line. I distinctively liked the way that he explained the process, the story of how it came to be. They started as a small group of people who appreciated the urban landscape of the train line and the vegetation that had appeared there over time (nature taking something man made). Because it was scheduled for demolition they started an initiative to talk about it in the media and bring attention to local communities and groups to realize what they have around them. The place had been studied by architects for a long time before that. After getting the support from mayor Bloomberg the situation was ready for the next step. Still I want to go back to that that even after the great success and the High Line being a public and social space for New Yorkers and tourists, I liked the fact that it still is involved in PARTICIPATION with the locals, be it from possibilities for them to showcase artwork, or to get employed in gardening the line. The High Line has a multiple role from a botanic garden-public space to a crucial social role for some groups of people. The whole project is developed and maintained by a private fund. Private philanthropy and donors are responsible for the realization of future plans for the High Line and its maintenance.
To think about urban design concepts in different contexts: initiatives, people participation, acknowledging, conflicts private/public, public/private space, private/public territory, reconstruction and perservance, relationship with the existing, relationship with the context, need for public space, need for common space, need for private space, society and individual interest, top down and bottom up initiatives.