web analytics

URBAN PLANNING: A PRIMER

By Pete Moore On August 14th, 2019

All things have their jargon. People like me, who detest modern planning and architecture, think of such things in terms of “place”, “human scale”, “townscape” and so on. But what do they mean?

I’ve just found this interesting thread by Wrath of Gnon, and I couldn’t recommend it more. Don’t worry, there are lots of explanatory pics, few words and little jargon. Have a read. It explains why captivating medieval towns look the way they do and how modernist urbanism is awful. Your next stroll, whether through an interesting place or horrid modern monstrosity, will be enlightened.

Unroll please –

28 Responses to “URBAN PLANNING: A PRIMER”

  1. Lovely human scale and color.

    The opposite of La Defense or Brasilia or any of that.

  2. We can all appreciate the chocolate box pretty little village look but we shouldn’t get too hung up on loving the old and hating the new. I’m sure people in medieval days looked at the buildings that we’re being constructed and bemoaned the ‘ugly modern monstrosities’ comparing them wistfully to good old Anglo Saxon and Roman architecture. Not all modern stuff is horrible. It’s human nature to love the old stuff and find it hard to embrace the new.

  3. how could you have found a thread on twitter when you said you weren’t on twitter ?

  4. You don’t have to have a Twitter account to view it. I look at it sometimes if I see a link to something interesting on it via a regular website but I don’t use Twitter.

  5. ahhh always willing to learn…

  6. I’d think its fair to say that more effort was made to make the average building beautiful in the past, than now.

    There are very many office blocks or houses built now that are boxes, and this has been the case since the fifties and sixties.

    There was great effort made to make the floors, roofs, gables, windows of ordinary buildings beautiful. Great detailed work, hand done by craftsmen.

    Very little of that now. Pete makes a large point that is not wrong.

  7. Oh I agree a lot of the post sixties concrete box style is undeniably ugly, but some people have an instinctive hostility to anything modern and don’t like anything built after Queen Victoria popped her clogs !

  8. Jesus. This site site is full of old-fashioned fuddy-duddys. You lot sound like Prince Charles who thinks every modern building is a filthy carbuncle. 😁

  9. You shouldn’t be afraid to speak the obvious, Dave.

  10. Well done Pete. I can recommend Stockholm to anyone who hasn’t visited it yet.

    One hope for modern buildings will be gardens, on the roof and on the sides. The technology (such as AI and hydroponics) will soon make it possible and cheap to green our cities in ways that our grandparents couldn’t have imagined. This will provide local food, promote biodiversity and help to cool us down in summer.

  11. Phantom,

    You shouldn’t be afraid to speak the obvious, Dave.

    I’m not afraid mate, and I’m glad you agree what I said is the obvious.

  12. Yes, Europe has many fine spots.

    But it makes little sense comparing the small Old Towns, where everything can be reached on foot in 10 mins. with the housing and commercial needs of modern life.

    Living in an Old Town is pretty, but a hassle if you need a car or if you want stuff delivered, if you want to throw a party and have sound-sensitive neighbours and if you want to conserve heat in winter.
    Mind you, I’ve just spent two extremely hot weeks in an old house in Slovenia and it was remarkable how the thick stone walls kept the house cool despite the heat outside.

    We all agree that building new ugly stuff is bad, but pulling down preservable old housing stock to make way for the new is much worse, and a large part of the destruction is driven by our old friend Capitalism, and the needs of the modern retailer, banker etc, who don’t like pokey old places.

    See Dublin in the 1960s – 70s for the greatest destruction of fine architecture since the barbarians, when acres of Georgian splendour were demolished to make place for glass and steel cages.

  13. The finest train station in America was demolished in 1963 to make way for ugly office buildings.

    The old Penn Station in NYC was a glory when built, the new one, an low ceilinged utiliarian ugly pit that millions suffer to walk through.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvTOfu9Iva8

  14. My, that station was truly majestic.

    But I see on one of the YouTube videos that they are now thinking of pulling down the new and rebuilding the old Penn station.

  15. Yes, there is a movement to build the old Penn Station.

    I doubt that they will do it, but that is what I would welcome.

    They say that on the day of the opening of the original Penn Station in 1910, a French visitor was in tears, because he had never thought a building could be that beautiful.

    So of course it was knocked down.

    That documentary can tell you a lot of interesting NYC and US history.

    The old Pennsylvania railroad was a great company, and the building of the tunnel under the Hudson River and the building of Penn Station a great feat of engineering.

  16. Well said, Noel. The cultural vandalism in Dublin in the 60s and 70s was shocking.

  17. We all agree that building new ugly stuff is bad, but pulling down preservable old housing stock to make way for the new is much worse, and a large part of the destruction is driven by our old friend Capitalism, and the needs of the modern retailer, banker etc, who don’t like pokey old places.

    Retailers and bankers are fine with pokey old places. Planning dogma, which 80 years later is still stuck in the Stalinist monstrosity mindset, not so much. In fact capitalism is and will lead a charge back to pokey old places, as it first led a charge toward them. The digital age is doing away with the need to have businesses and employees in particular locations and types of property.

  18. The majestic Penn Station, and the tunnel under the river that fed it, was all built with private money ( Pennsylvania Railroad )

  19. Robber Barons

  20. Perhaps instead of “BUILD THAT” Trump should instead promise to “ REBUILD THAT STATION “ .

    There’s a winning slogan for 2020 !

    We can live with the fact that he would of course paint it a tacky gold, include a huge statue of himself and call it TRUMP STATION 😉

  21. The majestic Penn Station, and the tunnel under the river that fed it, was all built with private money ( Pennsylvania Railroad )

    “Say pardon me boy, is this the Pennsylvania station?”
    “Yeah, track 29, say can I give you a shine?”

  22. A question to those here who think modern buildings are an abomination:
    Do you like the Eiffel tower?

  23. //A question to those here who think modern buildings are an abomination:
    Do you like the Eiffel tower?//

    Dave, or the …er… enchanting Neuschwanstein castle.

    https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/neuschwanstein-castle-germany-unique-places-around-the-world.html

    Some of the towers in NYC are just as old.

  24. Noel.

    It’s all about perception and your own personal opinion, and the age of a building seems to come into it to. For instance, I love castles but many people in the middle ages hated them and thought they were huge stone monstrosities.

    I think the hostility many people have towards modern buildings is misplaced.

  25. //I think the hostility many people have towards modern buildings is misplaced.//

    I think it’s silly to talk in terms of old buildings and modern buildings anyway.
    Some modern buildings are wonders to behold, some are disasters.

    The same for old buildings. There are good and bad.
    Most of the old and bad have been removed, but even today things like IMO Buckingham Palace are dull and uninspiring – at least the part you see from the front – and the famous Basilica of Sacré-Coeur in Paris is downright ugly.

  26. Noel.

    Totally agree mate.

  27. Dave Alton –

    It’s not just modern buildings, almost all of which are hideous abominations. It’s about place, setting, scale and urbanism. A building should confirm to the locale. No building should take place unless these are enhanced. Look again at the twitter thread.

    The Eiffel Tower was hated.

    “We, writers, painters, sculptors, architects and passionate devotees of the hitherto untouched beauty of Paris, protest with all our strength, with all our indignation in the name of slighted French taste, against the erection … of this useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower … To bring our arguments home, imagine for a moment a giddy, ridiculous tower dominating Paris like a gigantic black smokestack, crushing under its barbaric bulk Notre Dame, the Tour Saint-Jacques, the Louvre, the Dome of les Invalides, the Arc de Triomphe, all of our humiliated monuments will disappear in this ghastly dream. And for twenty years … we shall see stretching like a blot of ink the hateful shadow of the hateful column of bolted sheet metal.”

    A great part of its acceptance now is simply its familiarity. It has a pleasing though out of place silhouette from a distance. The closer you get to it the less appealing it becomes.

  28. Pete Moore.

    With the exception of your subjective and opinionated claim that most modern buildings are abominations, I pretty much agree with what you said in the rest of your post.

    We’ve had this conversation before, and I agree that for instance the glass pyramid at the Louvre looks completely out of place.

    I did post my question about the Eiffel tower to see just how many people on here who disapprove of modern buildings, think that the Eiffel tower is attractive. As you pointed out, most people hated it, and viewed it as a monstrosity when it was built.

    But this romanticized idea that everywhere should look like Sunny chocolate box villages in Berkshire, nice know they are, is misplaced to say the least.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.