Lines of integrity
[Critical Reflections on Seafront's contemporary challenges]
A Dissertation Submitted to the Graduate School of the Architectural Association School of Architecture in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of MA Housing and Urbanism
London, September 2007
[0.1] _____ Abstract
This paper presents a critical reflection on how the field of urbanism responds to complex challenges driven by seafront's sites. The thesis reasons about the difficulty that arises with recent urban proposals that depict urbanism's current tendency –that is to initiate typical generic patterns as solutions which hardly encourage diversity and scalar assertions. This study suggests an alternative approach for engaging with complex urban issues by initiating differentiated methodologies of urban interventions on seafront's sites. Along this paper, the case of Tel Aviv's seafront serves as a model from which the main questions are extracted. The analysis process is based on the concepts of scale and section which are generated from the spatial conditions and challenges concerning seafront's design. Both concepts bring together critical voices on principle theoretical debates with references to models of seafront's cities. The general argument of this paper shows two lines or urban interventions which encourage urbanism, as a martial practice, to derive change via the process of revisiting "the large" and the advantage of working with the landscape and infrastructure.
Key words: Seafronts, urban design, scale, section, Tel Aviv
Nowadays, it appears to be that major waterfront sites have the capacity to generate change and enhance socio-economic processes that reach the city's multiple levels. The great potentials embedded in post-industrial seafront's sites are exploited via the virtue of Architectural urbanism. Indeed, seafronts' development and regeneration projects are one of the most challenging interventions that urban design must grapple with. Given seafront's typical characteristics such as extreme size, edge conditions and an assemblage of infrastructures, the practice of urbanism must engage with issues of scale, section and intensification.
However, s difficulty arises with recent urban development proposals in that they tend to depict urbanism's current tendency to initiate typical generic patterns as solutions that hardly encourage scalar assertions. Thus, the overall aim of this thesis is to encourage a critical reflection on how the field of urbanism, both in practice and in graphic representation, should engage with the main concepts that are derived from seafront's sites. In doing so, the analysis is based on two key concepts: scale and section. Since relatively little has been written on the subject in relation to these concepts, my aim is to suggest differentiated methodologies for the next urban intervention in seafront's cities.
Finally, in the following section I shall use the case of Tel Aviv's seafront serves as a generic model from which the main challenges concerning seafront's designs are extracted and examined throughout the thesis. This thesis is divided into three chapters:
The first chapter analyzes the challenges driven by the concept of scale, which is conceived as both size and multi-scalarity. The various theoretical approaches, along with different seafront models, initiate a critical debate not only on the difficulties embedded in size, but also on its potentials as an instrument for material organization. Furthermore, this chapter reflects on how the field of urbanism should modify its traditional tools, into a dynamic and flexible apparatus that is able to produce a dialogue between the process of drawing and the multiple scale of an urban intervention.
The second chapter explores a problem of rapture in the urban fabric, generated by large pieces of infrastructure that are juxtaposed between the city and its waterfront. These infrastructural structures involve spatial dilemmas that may be explicitly observed through a section drawing. In this context, the case of the High Line (New York) reveals a generic structure that as a spatial diagram can be conceived as an apparatus for urban intensification. In addition, this chapter reflects upon the advantages embedded in recent architectural practices that re-engage with landscape and infrastructure as three dimensional instruments for material organizations.
Lastly, the third chapter focuses on the recent masterplan proposals for Tel Aviv's seafront which implicitly depict the predicament embedded in urban design. As a conclusion of the critical reflection of the concepts of scale and section carried out in chapters 1&2, this thesis suggests two lines of spatial interventions that encourage urbanism, as a martial practice, to derive change via the process of revisiting "the large" and the advantage of working with the landscape and infrastructure.
 ______________ SCALE [Differentiated Lines]
[1.1] ______________The scene
In order to fully engage with waterfront's design, the classification of waterfronts by type appears to be a strategic tool for urban interventions. Now this is not to say that we should ignore the local characteristics of each site, but rather accept this classification of type as departure point for design processes. Thus, in order to set up the ground for further exploration, we should point out what are the most fundamental differences between riverfronts' and seafronts' urban conditions. I shall begin with exploring the typical diagram of riverfronts' cities such as Shanghai, Bilbao or London. There are three generic specificities that already initiate vast possibilities for urban interventions. First, the fact that a river has two facades that can be seen from both its sides enables architecture to create iconicity on the waterfront's edge. Second, the smaller the gap is between the two lines, the better potential there is to initiate intimate interrelationships that are able to reconstruct the city's logic. And finally, its natural form-a curved continuous line-already enables sequences and differentiated areas that may carry nodes of intensification along the waterfront.
In contrast to riverfronts, the first thing to notice about seafronts' is that it hardly generates any clues for urban interventions given their spatial condition. Let's take a closer look at Tel Aviv's seafront from which we may depict the main conditions that make these sites particularly intriguing. The most signifying and yet extremely constrained pattern is the-'edge condition'. In Tel-Aviv, the sea line performs as a rigorous line of integrity which establishes a series of parallel lines that grow deeper into the urban fabric. In doing so, these lines have great emphasis on the city's north-south linear patterns of movement and growth. Moreover, because the site is the city's edge, it is extremely difficult to activate the seafront as a multi-programmatic site, which may become a node in the city's sequential events. This is to say, that usually most of urban sequences are charged by intensities and densities embedded within their urban surroundings. In this sense, what should cities like Tel Aviv do when they reach their open and fragmented edge?
This problem brings us to the second issue. Indeed, cities always aim to find the most suitable location to activate a node, whether it is driven by the site's physical form, its context or even its size-all of these parameters are strongly related to hierarchy. But, due to the linear continuity and the openness of the site, a city such as Tel Aviv lacks any notion of coherence and differentiation. The absence of diversity touches upon the third condition driven from the site-that is its mono-programmatic activity. In Tel Aviv, in order to support the hotels cluster, most of the tourism activities are located on the seafront. On the one hand, this condition enhances the economic productivity of the site, but on the other hand, it creates a strong identity which separates the site from the rest of the city. This is not to suggest that tourism or any other program on the waterfront is inappropriate, quite the contrary. Nevertheless, cities should think how to generate multi-programmatic intensity, via architecture's capacity, in order to establish urban sequences along the site that initiate a dialogue with the city as a whole.
Thus, having set up the scene by clarifying differentiated types of waterfronts and their urban constrains, we shall peruse to explore how the field of urbanism may respond to the following lines of questioning. The first challenge is how can cities reach critical mass on the waterfront site?
The second challenge is with what tools does the field of urbanism respond to the challenges of cities in order to generate highly differentiated area yet well integrated?
Before proceeding, I wish to introduce a fundamental concept that is generic to most waterfronts sites– the concept of Scale. To a large extent, this concept is ambiguous. Often, we are not certain about what potential or real meaning, yet one of the common understandings of the concept of scale is through its relation to size. Any discussion of size in urbanism should be encountered with the rapid transformations that have shaped our cities for the last forty years. Hence, whereas the architectural role of size in the 19th century was to signify or represent the public realm, today it
cannot be juxtaposed on global metropolis such as New York or Dubai. Further in this chapter, I shall elaborate more about the theoretical debate concerning size. However, for now, it is important to realize that the contemporary theoretical debate among the field is highly concerned with the implication of size and the city's material organization. That is to say, that while someone like Colquhoun is concerned with the fabric's raptures, which are driven by the proliferation of largeness, Koolhaas claims just the opposite. Koolhaas developed a theory and architectural practice of 'bigness', one that exploits the potential of size to reconstruct the city as a whole "[...], only Bigness instigated the regime of complexity that mobilize the full intelligence of architecture and its related fields." Moreover, it is the work of architects like Rem Koolhaas or Stan Allen that gives another meaning to the concept of scale. Through the three-dimensional diagrammatic exploration and the modification of the figure/ground plan, architecture can engage, as a material practice, with differentiated levels of the city (i.e., socio-economic, political and spatial) and its generic structures (e.g., grid, blocks, and infrastructure). This emphasizes urbanism as a practice of process and time rather than form and place. Thus, the process of diagrammatic exploration initiates the second way to conceive that concept of scale-as multi-scalar relationships that are drawn from the complex urban condition. In conclusion, scale is two-fold concept that is concerned with architecture's potentials and its long term consequences; it is about ambition and reality; and is driven by both size and multi-scalar.
[1.2]______________Reflection on Size & Critical mass
One may notice that the generic way in which various cities chose to overcome the lack of intensity on their empty, vastly open edge, is by placing something big. Architecture, via the virtue of size, has the capacity to initiate two strategies: first, to establish planometric organization of the site, and second, to condense critical mass which attracts flows of people. In Tel Aviv, for instance, despite the promising ambition of post-modern architecture to achieve hierarchy and critical mass by placing a megastructure on its seafront, this structure failed to reach the multiple scales of the city. Not only did the idea of lowering the highway and placing on top of it a huge structure block the
continuity of the grid, but its mono-programmatic plan (as a tourist center) could not intensify the performance of the site.
Nevertheless, the idea of placing something big is not innovative. In fact, this logic is driven by 19th century industrial sites' productive performance. The passenger's ships and sea cargo required suitable transport's infrastructure that could easily receive goods and then distribute them around the city. Docks, railways and highways constructed the planometric organization of these sites. In addition, large containers, warehouses, and sheds were built to maintain the intensity and the highly efficient productivity of the site. Today, even though most of the large infrastructural elements were exchanged by modern transport facilities, traces of large parcels of land are still evident, expecting an urban intervention.
The problem of size has already been noted in the field. Allen Colquhoun argues that one of the 20th century's main challenges -in relation to size and signification- is driven by modernism's proliferation of large parcels of land. His 1971 essay, 'The Superblock', follows post-modern critique about modernism's failure to build and develop the city as a unified entity. He argues that due to modernism's interest in the high profitability of urban land, it accelerated the developments of large parcels and large containers –Superblocks. As a result, a rapture and discontinuity evolved and thus the city's internal logic was interrupted. We should notice that Colquhoun draws our attention to size as an urban problem that must be explored. For this reason, one should not refer these superblocks only to housing typologies, but also to warehouses, factories, and power-stations that as Colquhoun claims, can no longer carry the performative role that large types of buildings used to in the 19th century . In other words, whereas traditional architecture used the performative quality of size to signify particular types of buildings (such as public institutions), modernism ignored its role and instead accelerated the production of large anonymous objects (such as factories and dwellings).
In doing so, it generated an ambiguous urban condition; it was the problem of size that paralyzed urbanism's capability to achieve coherence and signification through type in the level of the whole city.
Be this as it may, for some post-modern architects, there was a tendency to mention issues of size, as if they were only a result of a shift from architecture to urbanism. Rossi, for example, explores the urban as if it was the continuation of architectural forms on a larger and extended scale. He would probably reject the idea of reducing the city's problems to size. For Rossi, that would mean to ignore the city's scientific structure and evolutionary process. In Rossi's words: "it is conceivable that a change in scale modifies an urban artifact in some way; but it does not change its quality" . In other words, type-architecture's form-is permanence and timeless; it guarantees the continuity of the city's form and its orderly process. To a large extent, Rossi's concepts define a single city, one that has been described through the eyes of the objective: this can only been drawn through a single scale of the image. Moneo refers to these images as "platonic shadows", which constitute a set of images – of a house, a city hall, a hospital – that become generic signs of architecture .
Both Rossi and Colquhoun encounter typological reasoning as a resource that constitutes their argument. However, the latter considers type in a rather different way. Despite the fact that Colquhoun's conceptual exploration of type is quite vague, it seems to encourage the idea that type has the potential of becoming an apparatus for material organization. His critique on modernism's architecture goes beyond the issues of significations through type and size. He is concerned with the fact that size has the capacity to affect, not only the urban image but also the organization of the city's logic.
Similar to Rossi and Colquhoun, Koolhaas often explores architecture's typological structures as the basis of his writings. Nevertheless, he sees the challenges of size as a category that architecture should and must exploit and work upon. In Delirious New York (1978), the 'retroactive manifesto' for Manhattan, Koolhaas celebrates 'Manhattanism' -an urban phenomenon that represents the mass culture -as a critique to modernism's utopia. He is interested in the ways the city is reasoned through questions of profit rather than scientific form. Koolhaas is fascinated by the performance of Manhattan's grid which accommodates diversity of types and programs within the urban block. In other words, it is the neutrality of the grid that allows variety of forms and functions to be juxtaposed at the level of the block while the type of the skyscraper does the same on the level of the floor plan. The result is a double Schism, between generic grid pattern and specific typology; between single façade and multiple floors . It is via the virtue of the skyscraper's size that architecture has the capacity to achieve critical mass and to draw inside it that which happens on the grid. In effect, we may suggest that it is architecture's monumentality that no longer seeks to respond to the street or even to express its interiority; it is indifferent to form and place.
Koolhaas reasons through these issues of scale further in his book S, M, L, XL – where scale is conceived as an apparatus to organize and differentiate OMA's projects. Moneo explains: "At the heart of his interest in scale is the importance he gives to the use that architecture is to serve. Scale is therefore a category that leads from private to public" . This statement suggests that architecture as a material practice should act on its multiple scales beyond form, icon or language, but towards profit, technology and globalization. The theory of 'Bigness', which has "its own raison d'etre", continues the phenomenon of Manhattanism, but without Manhattan. Instead of the skyscraper, there are large projects that perform beyond constrains of the grid or the block, or even beyond the city. 'In a landscape of disarray, disassembly, dissociation, disclamation, the attraction of Bigness is its potential to reconstruct the Whole, resurrect the Real, reinvent the collective, reclaim maximum possibility". Thus, while Colquhoun chose to emphasize the rapture that bigness generates, Koollhaas says quite the opposite. For Koolhaas, the new architectural containers may suggest that bigness has the capacity to re-organize material practices, achieve hierarchy and vibrancy in these vastly open and empty site; "Through its very independent of context, is the one architecture that can survive, even exploit, the new global condition of tabula -rasa".
Finally, in order to take this discussion a step further, it may be useful to briefly mention two cities whose urban interventions on the seafront represent different approaches in relation to challenge of critical mass. This is not to evaluate the success of a seafront development, given the fact that one city's success can be the other's failure. Nevertheless, each represents a generic model that responds differently to seafront's challenges. In other words, while Vancouver (Canada) may depict a typical Asian model that aims to overcome the lack of intensity on its seafront by increasing densities, San Sebastian (Spain) reaches intensity on the seafront by emphasizing its state of exception.
Both Vancouver's and San Sebastian's strategic diagrams exploit the potential of size differently to achieve vibrancy on the seafront. Whereas Vancouver's urban strategy seeks to intensify its waterfront through increasing its density and extending the inner city's generic patterns all the way down to its waterfront, the 'Kursaasl' center, in San Sebastian, differentiates the seafront's site from the urban fabric. In Vancouver, given the fact that decisions were taken in the 1960's not to build any highways, the city did not have to deal with the complex implications of infrastructure along the water's edge. Hence the waterfront was conceived as an extension of the city. In effect, Vancouver could work with its existing grid, open spaces, typologies, cycling routes and generic morphologies
that constitute the logic of the inner city. Moreover, Vancouver's development has been going on since the 1970's, with each phase, including the Expo 86, placing new projects and large facilities. Now even though it was developed project by project, there was a clear thinking of the city as a whole . In fact, this notion of bigness, as big multi-scalar projects, has required team's work and wider management of the site. This is why these sites should be developed progressively through a dialogue with the public and private sectors and the community that come together for the design process. Finally, Vancouver's urban planning overcomes the lack of vibrancy on its waterfront. It succeeds to generated mix-use, legible and well integrated areas which intensify the performance of the waterfront's site and the city as a whole. Through generic patterns such as: residential towers, public space and efficient street networks, the city achieved to initiate critical mass on its edge.
On the other hand, San Sebastian initiated its critical mass through different notion of bigness. The 'kursaal' (1999), designed by Raphael Moneo, is situated among mountains, at the river's edge where it joins the sea. One may notice that Moneo's intervention does not belong to the urban fabric but to the landscape. In contrast to Vancouver's case study, here there are infrastructural elements that separate the city from the sea as well as the building from the fabric. Instead of trying to link the two, Moneo's project emphasizes the seafront as a differentiated condition from the city, not only due to its location but also through its large scale. The auditorium and the congress hall, the key programmatic elements of the scheme, are conceived as separate autonomous volumes, as two huge glass cubes (floor area of 60.000 square meters) that have been emitted from the sea. These cubes are placed on a plateau raised above the surrounding dock and promenade from which people enjoy wonderful views of the ocean. In a sense, these gigantic cubes do not continue the city's continuous fabric and do not express their interiority. Yet their notion of bigness attracts and achieves a critical mass.
In conclusion, both the theoretical debate and the two case studies depict ways in which urbanism responded to these difficult challenges. This is not to suggest a particular way of working, but rather to encourage a discussion that explicitly implies the challenges embedded in such intervention. As outlines above, size and multi-scalar has the capacity to overcome the lack of intensity. In this context, when one looks back at the case of Tel Aviv, she should have in her mind different approaches of activating and intensifying the seafronts. However, it is not enough to use different generic patterns of interventions, it is rather crucial that any urban operation, via the virtue of size, will touch on the multiple scales of the city.
[1.3]______________Reflections on Multi-Scalar Diagrams
The complexity of the urban condition is one of the most difficult issues that architecture has to grapple with, particularly when this requires articulation through graphic materials. And yet, via the process of drawing architects and urban designers are able to react to complex urban situations. The contemporary urban realm has extreme qualities of fragmentation, edge conditions, political anxiety and socio-economic dynamics. Given these characteristics, Allen suggests rethinking about architecture's mode of representation, especially if "architecture's objective is given from outside" .
It is in this context that the practice of urbanism should reinterpret its constrained instruments such as the masterplan or the figure/ground plan. Instead of rejecting these tools and starting anew, it should modify them into differentiated instruments that have the capacity to respond to urban challenges. To emphasize the idea that architecture should encounter with external disciplines, Allen suggests we distingue architecture as a "material practice". In his own words: "activities that transform reality by producing new objects or new organizations of matter." Conceived as such, architectural urbanism is encouraged to encounter with other material practices such as art, media and graphic design. But whereas these disciplinarians can serve only as a critique, urbanism via the virtue of architecture has the capacity to transform reality. Moreover, inspired by Allen's essay, Agrest argues that "representation in architecture results from its displacement". This is to say, that architectural urbanism's representation never represents itself but is always in a distance. Hence, it should be articulated through an abstract apparatus such as a diagram.
In this context, I suggest that any speculation on how cities may differentiate their seafront’s site yet also integrate it, should begin by the articulation of the main issues through the process of graphic representations. Nevertheless, we should keep in mind that this question is not particular to a seafront’s condition, but can be driven from any typical situation in which urbanism is expected to activate an open, empty site (i.e., the inner periphery areas, informal settlements and former industrial sites). Next we shall elaborate on how the field of urbanism began to modify its traditional tools into more dynamic and flexible apparatus that may initiate a dialogue between the process of drawing and the multiple scale urban intervention.
The object of drawing
The book 'Collage city', manifested by Rowe and Koetter, is a critique about the way in which modern architects and urban designers impose their "new" objects on the homogenized fabric of the 19th century's traditional city. In other words, Rowe recognizes, by the performance of the figure/ ground plan, a problem embedded in modernism's urban planning. The problem lies in our way of conceiving the relation between the "new" model and the "old" fabric.
Le Corbusier's Plan Voisin (1922) is an interesting reference that can clarify Rowe's argument on modernism's incapability to initiate meaningful differentiated intervention that may accommodate change. This plan is an outgrowth of Le Corbusier's 'Ville Contemporaine'. The plan was drawn as a huge single object that is juxtaposed on the city's original fabric in order to differentiate it from the Parisian context. It is obvious that Le Corbusier aims to implement a "new" image of urbanism that should become a recognizable image of the city as a whole. Indeed, Rowe may accept this idea of reinventing the future of Paris. But, for him, the problem is driven by the way it was drawn as a functional strategy that is not derived from the context itself. Even though the plan is aligned to the grid pattern of the city, for Rowe the problem is within the object's nature which can not respond to change and time. Rowe criticizes the functionalists' tendency to reject the potential embedded in type as an apparatus that has the potential to accommodate urban processes of transformations. He wrote:" in practice, functionalism could often become comprehended with a theory of types, intrinsically, it was scarcely able to comprehend the notion already synthesized and pre-existent models being shifted around from place to place"
Similar to Rossi's manifesto, Rowe's strategy is generated by type which serves as a key element for a meaningful urban intervention that has the capacity to respond and transform areas in the city. Nevertheless, one may argue that Le Corbusier does respond by the virtue of type. On the one hand, le Corbusier's sky scrapers are identical, they are not differentiated by type (i.e., office building, housing, public institutions). But on the other hand, one may suggest that the whole area of intervention could be read as one type, one artifact that is juxtaposed on the city. Either way, the plan is still vague. What is the scale of this object? Is it a neighborhood, a quarter or a district? I think this ambiguity driven by the lack of scale of the study area in relation to the city as whole. Although it is drawn in a context, the drawing is conceived as a utopia.
A further criticism made by Rowe regards the fundamental idea that is carried out by the Plan Voisin- the idea that in order to act on the city, a huge part of the urban fabric should be eradicated. In fact, Rowe would say that a condition of tabula-rasa never exists and that it is impossible that a single act will affect the scale of the whole city. Cities do not change at once. Especially not through total eradication of old sites in order to start afresh or by the juxtaposition of "new" objects. Thus, instead of rejecting the context, Rowe aims to work with the urban texture to enable co-existence between two areas. So, in a way, Rowe seeks a methodology of drawing that will generate diversity and differentiation, and yet integrate sites with integrity. In effect, through the medium of art, he explores a way in which architecture can reveal the multiple relations that are driven by figure/ ground. Through the collision of objects and the articulation of the ground, architecture may reinvent its perception of space. To put it differently, Rowe shifts the object of drawing from figure to ground. The voids, rather than the solids objects, the voids become the predominant element in the plan. The voids activate spaces and enable its surroundings to be identified differently. Given this approach, architecture and urbanism can only defend and protect their intervention from rapid transformation through the permanence of the voids as material organization.
We have noticed that the challenges driven by any urban operation usually begin with the process of drawing. The urban challenges discussed here -how to activate an empty site and how to differentiate it, can be explored through various strategies. However, picking up on Rowe's approach, we shall further explore the potential of the void as material organization and how it has been interpreted by architects both in the field and in seafront cities. I shall begin with OMA's proposal for the Melan Senart (France) competition (1987). OMA’s proposal exploits both the potential of the void as a material organization, and the diagram as a self-critical drawing technique. Koolhaas's position in this proposal follows Rowe's performative voids by using the void as a generic element that organizes the landscape. This strategy recognizes and accepts the uncontrollable. It lets the multiple dynamics of the city to shape its formless form, as long as the logic is kept through the constitution of the void’s system. Given the fact that each void is differentiated programmatically, diversity and sequential events are initiated along these open bands. Koolhaas modifies the traditional figure /ground plan into a diagram- a superposition of planes, voids and surfaces. This diagrammatic exploration is not only a projection of visual materials, but rather it is conceived as an expression of the mode of the urban logic. Instead of drawing figures, these diagrams explore two differentiated multi-layered systems: the bands and the islands. The first is a system of linear voids that inscribe the site: "This system of emptiness that guarantees beauty, serenity, accessibility, identity regardless- or even in spite of – its future architecture" . That is to say that the development of the site is depended on the emptiness of these voids. Each band's specificity is driven both from its local condition and its overall performance. For instance, some bands run parallel to the highway in order to make them appealing as urban elements that will attract the interventions of various commodities which will initiate the so called-'linear office parks' .
The second system is molded through the interface with the form of the surrounding voids. Each of these island acts as an autonomous entity and it can be developed independently from the others. Although these islands consist of planning regulations of height, density and program, they allow different architects to intervene while keeping the overall logic. In effect, the "island" is conceived as an autonomous entity that accommodates different interventions and yet its existence deepens its surrounding. Instead of an object, it is a field which is consisted of fixed and loose elements. Along texts and diagrams, Koolhaas usually works with models. These models try to get as close as possible to the real. Given the fact that for Koolhaas the city as an object no longer exists,
he represents it as a "spontaneous city, the city that emerges as a result of uncontrolled development" , as Moneo claims. Even though these models seem less explicit than the diagrams, their three-dimensionality texture sets up fields that diffuse any defined formal entities. They aim to work upon differentiated generic characteristics.
Now let's try and bring together the discussion about how the field responds to the challenge of activating an empty site through the process of drawing with seafront's cities. In this sense, the case of Santa Monica (CA, USA) holds an interesting and relevant position in relation to its seafront where a different strategy was taken. Instead of placing a large structure that will attract flows of people, the beach was left empty. A diagrammatic exploration of the city indicates that even though the site is left as an open edge it has a meaning driven from the city's multiple scales.
The long beach constitutes the first line in a series of differentiated parallel lines of events which are interrupted by nodes of intensification such as the civic center or the commercial activities along the highway. The parallel lines act together as 'thick field' that begins at the sea line and moves deeper into the urban fabric. Each line is a generic element, characterized differently by its context and its program. Given the fact that these lines constitute the overall structure of the city, they allow for various forms of living patterns to be attached to them. Conceived as a pause from the urban intensity, the seafront is highly differentiated, but at the same time it is also highly integrated. First through the transport infrastructure; and second it activates as a system of parallel liner lines that initiate the future development of the city.
In conclusion, we may argue that given the fact that cities today are subject of rapid transformation, we should not create specific boundaries and defined territories. Instead of top-down planning we should think through bottom-up processes. In other words, a city like Tel-Aviv should not be planned by the usual sense of some bureaucratic organization controlling its development. It should be reasoned through flexible strategies that constitute fix generic elements that allows for unplanned situations and sequences to occur in between. It is in this context that the masterplan should be modified. Perhaps not as a tool that controls the future development of the city in terms of order and form, but as a diagram that initiates dynamic processes.
______________ SECTION [Thick Lines]
To a large extent, post-industrial cities are left with a complex legacy of structures that run parallel to their waterfront. Any urban intervention on these sites must respond to an overlay of infrastructural elements such as highways, railroads and piers that were left on the site. These elements are usually conceived as a border or a barrier that disconnects the sea from the city. Not only does this condition raise issues of scale in relation to spatial planometric organization (as previously outlined), but the infrastructural structures also involve spatial dilemmas that may be explicitly observed through a section drawing. For example, even though Tel Aviv is not a post-industrial city, it has a highway that runs along the waters' side which is a primary north-south circulation network. Spatially, it enhances the physical separation of the site from the city, allows visibility of the sea and prevents at least in part of the seafront massive developments to reach the waters' edge. Nevertheless, through the section, this condition discloses rapture between the parallel lines that constitutes a 'thick' seafront's. In this context, we shall explore how cities overcome the problem which emerges through the section. How do they engage with the large pieces of infrastructure that are juxtaposed on their edges? And speculate about these structures' capacity to become a three-dimensional instrument for material organization
There are differentiated ways to respond to the problem of infrastructure on waterfronts sites and Barcelona only describes one successful case in relation to its context. For many years the city expanded in land without including the seafront in the urban redevelopment. However, during the 1980's and as part of the globalization processes cities become a site of the global economy. In effect, the city decided to open up to the sea and later become a model for other cities of great architectural urbanism that conceive the sea as the heart of the city. As part of the Olympic’s Village (1992) urban strategy, the city had to rethink its infrastructural elements and their performative potentials. The main roadways and trolley tracks were reorganized into multi-layered entity that preserves the incredible seaside's view, while enabling industrial and commercial traffic to co-exist with pedestrians' walkways without an elevated highway interrupting the view . In doing so, Barcelona reclaimed its connection to the sea, either by burying parts of the highway underneath the ground and leaving a road of public transport on the metropolitan scale, or by partially covering it with promenades and green spaces.
In order to take this matter further I shall elaborate on the case of the High Line in lower west side of Manhattan, New York. Given the fact that this elevated railway depicts an intriguing process of working with infrastructure differently in two time periods, we may begin to speculate upon the reasons that enabled this structure to be conceived as an urban instrument for spatial intensification. In other words, I find the case of the High Line as an opportunity to rethink how a single purpose structure becomes a three dimensional instrument. Put differently, how can the High Line make sense as urban project long after it has been out of use?
Typical to other former industrial sites, the lower west side of Manhattan used to be one of the biggest, vastly open and extremely efficiently activated sites. The intensity of the port's everyday activity required facilities, large numbers of workers, public and private investments and the support of infrastructural elements. To a large extent, the city's economic and urban development was based upon the productive capacity of these sites, given the fact that hundreds of passengers arrived everyday and large quantity of goods were stored and distributed from Manhattan's piers to the inner city. In effect, the New York council authorized the Hudson River railway to lay down tracks in Manhattan's west side in order to improve both
its networks of movement and the performance of these essential activities. However, conflicts and arguments emerged between the train and street traffic that ran along the city's edge. The dangerous congestion of the train, the traffic, the commercial and industrial activity became to be known as “Death Avenue” , as these networks could no longer co-exist with its surrounding.
Finally, in 1929, a plan to build an elevated railway along Manhattan's waterfronts was approved by the city of New York. This corridor was planned to be built from 57th street to Canal Street so that trains could be taken out of the pedestrians and main traffic level. In addition to the High Line which was built as a part of the west’s side improvement, this initiative includes the constructions of R.C Williams & CO warehouse where goods were delivered and stored, and the new St John Terminal which was designed to accept 190 rail cars from the high line directly into its secondary level.
At this point we may observe that this time period may be identified by its ability to find an instrument that has the capability to enhance and intensify the productive capacity of the waterfront's site. Not only had it provided efficient networks of movement, but it also supported the development of various buildings that were attached to the structure. In other words, it is in this chaotic landscape, that the high line is first recognized as an instrument for spatial organization that initiates coherence and intensification.
The second time period began when the last train ran along the high way in 1980. The decline of the highline caused the New York central railroad to sell St. John terminal and to propose the demolition of parts of the high line. By the time the railway owners declared the High Line as unprofitable; it was up for sale and was eventually purchased by a group of resident known as the Chelsea property owners (CPO) who had some real estate properties in the area . Their aim was to rediscover the potential hidden in the High Line as an instrument that may contribute to the public realm in Manhattan. However, it was not so obvious how to re-use the 1.5 km of infrastructure. What is the potential of a single purpose structure in the lower part of Manhattan at this size?
The architectural urbanism recognizes the multiple potentials that could be driven from the performative capacity of the High Line. This seems to be generated from the socio-economic transformations that occurred in the area of lower Manhattan. During the economic boom of the 1990's new media companies appeared and transformed the High Line area into one of the most popular markets for real-estate in Manhattan. The traditional industries that once placed the area are now replaced by new art galleries, bars and restaurants. The juxtaposition of old manufacturing with new design-oriented businesses raised market demand and led architects to revalue the potential of the High Line. Buildings such as the Chelsea market and the Port Authority's Inland Terminal were taken by internet companies, design studios, arts and photography which together activated an intense Media cluster . In other words, the process of gentrification is one of the reasons that generated the reuse of the High Line as an urban project. It is in this context that the fact that the High Line was
declared as abandoned created a great opportunity for its redevelopment. The condition in which most of the blocks around it were left undeveloped protected the land from the rapid uncontrolled process of gentrification. In effect, this area had the chance to be re-thought as a differentiated phase in the overall development network.
Be this as it may, I assume that the spatial characteristics of the High Line increased its ability to be re-activated as an apparatus for urban intensification. Even though there are various reasons for preventing the re-use of the High Line, such as its current physical condition or the fact that it is not directly linked to the fabric, these issues can be changed through the modification of the zoning rules. But in my opinion, the question is: why would a single structure, such as the High Line, have the capacity to affect and allow different patterns to occur in lower Manhattan?
In order to answer this question, one must explore the spatial potentials driven by the structure of the High Line. The first thing to notice is the fact that the structure has the capability to enhance processes of intensification through the multiplication of the ground. This is to say that it initiates new relationships between the spaces at the lower and upper levels. While in the upper level the horizontal surface unifies the structure as a single entity, in the lower level a series of parallel vertical planes are interrupted by Manhattan's grid. Reflecting on our discussion about size, one may argue that it is the notion of bigness that enables the following twofold condition to exist: first as a structure that given its size affect the scale of a district. Second, as an instrument that is flexible enough to be able affect generic patterns at the scale of the block. Furthermore, this twofold condition works as a three dimensional logic, particularly through the notion of a section. Personally, I find kollhass's concept of "schism" suitable to reflect upon the High Line performance. Similar to Manhattan's grid, which koolhaas conceives as a neutral system that initiates diversity of forms and functions on the block, infrastructure has the ability to initiate similar conditions. The High Line lower level can perform differently, according to its context, while keeping the coherence of the structures' rigid form and size. Put differently, due to the structures' spatial persistence, it is loose enough to be able to support different events, which may be defined as "mega-smallness" conditions.
Furthermore, the fact that such an instrument is not located on the waterfront's edge actually encourages vibrancy and intensity in the deeper blocks of Manhattan. Through the section, the waterfront's site is conceived as a wide and deep entity which is constituted through multiple parallel lines. This condition of "the thickened waterfront" allows the waterfront to be left open, yet differentiated, while being charged by parallel lines of intensity. As we noticed, both Santa Monica and the High Line left the waterfront as it is: an open site which is a pause from the city's intensity. Thus, instead of re-defining the waterfront's meaning through the site itself, urban design may first enhance the performance of its parallel lines. It is through this process that the waterfront may be differentiated and yet integrate into the city's logic.
Lastly, I would like to explore infrastructure as an instrument from the perspective of graphic representation and recent architectural urbanism practices. One may say that interest in old infrastructure, such as warehouses and power-stations, was driven by a new style that emerged in architecture and which aimed to endow it with meaning. This phenomenon seems to run parallel to the process of gentrification, or it is generated from different theories that reclaim the potential of size in architectural practices. Either way, what is relevant in relation to this discussion about infrastructure, is the fact that these machines, which are a symbol of modernism's efficiency, are rediscovered as an instrument for material organization through new practices, such as "infrastructural urbanism". This practice, manifested by Stan Allen, aims to engage with the rapid transformation in our cities and construct its future's structure via constitutive parameters such as process, program and event. In a sense, this practice is a critique on the post-modern tendency to juxtapose meaning on architectural forms. For Allen, someone like Eisenman represents this extreme notion of post-modernism. Given the fact that Eisenman seeks new meanings that are generated from the design process, he establishes a private language in architecture's discipline. This meaning is achieved by complex geometrical operations taken by the architect himself, rather than by an external urban context. In doing so, Allen claims that Eisenman reduces or limits the field of architecture to a self-referential discipline . This is to suggest that architecture should engage with meaning, as a material practice, though indirect contact such as abstract images and material realities. In this context, Allen shifts the architectural discourse toward infrastructure. In Allen's words:" It is a way of working with at the large scale that escapes suspect notation of master planning and heroic ego of the individual architect. Infrastructural urbanism marks a return to the instrumentality and a move from the representational imperative in architecture" . As we noticed in the case of the High Line, instead of focusing on its looks, we should be concern with the structures' ability to transform the city's reality.
Given the above, although I find Allen's approach compelling, I think it might be constrained once translated directly into three dimensional models. This point may be clarified through Allen's experimental project for the completion "logistical Activities Zone" in Barcelona (1996), which was an opportunity to explore the potential of the infrastructural urbanism. The strategy for the open edge of the city imitates the superimposition of two prototypes: one, that of the patches, which is the division of land into non linear surfaces that accommodate program. The second, that of the corridors, is a continuous structure that supports local development while keeping the overall form unified . In a sense, rather than working on the relation between the generic performance and event, this strategy is working upon form and event. Thus, even though this strategy seeks maximum flexibility in future development of the new port's area, while keeping a unified form, the graphic result tends to emphasize its difficulties rather than its potentials. Although it is developed through diagrams, maps and manual script, it actually deploys the diagrammatic characteristics as formal entities that organize the site. Indeed, infrastructural elements can be conceived as an instrument for spatial organizations such as the High Line, but they should not be conceived as a model which is translated directly into a single project.
Following Allen, I assume that this essential instrument should initiate new graphic representations that modify the rigidity of urbanism's traditional tool. This three-dimensional apparatus encourages material organization that reflects upon the complex urban reality, while encouraging performance-based reasoning, rather than formal frameworks.
[2.2]____________Thickness and intensification of the ground
At this point, we have noticed that the spatial relationships between the city and the sea can be explored through a section. Not only does a section indicate how the urban mass reaches the sea, it may also articulate inner relationships between the city and the sea through the surface of the ground. In this matter, Tel Aviv is an interesting study case. The topography of the east-west promenades that cut through the city's fabric, change towards the sea. Given the low level of the sea, its spectacular view can only be revealed when one reaches the intersection between the promenades and the highway. While the topography of the east-west promenades work with different configurations of the ground, the north-south linear axis along the sea is articulated by a flat surface, on which various isolated large objects are juxtaposed. Next we shall explore the potential of landscape urbanism to intervene between different urban sequences.
As one may noticed in the case of the High Line, horizontal urbanism is driven by various prototypes such as highways, bridges, railways and other low large infrastructures. The contemporary city aims to respond to challenges driven by these large elements that sometimes initiate extreme shifts in scale, speed of movement and identities. In effect, urbanism's role of mediating between these raptures is being rediscovered through other disciplinarians in the field. This is to say that those large elements are now being explored as an urban apparatus that has the capability to unify a complex urban condition while preserving its diversity. This condition had generated the emergence of new strategies in the field of urbanism, which aim to find an available instrument for material organization. Here we shall explore how these strategies modify the meaning of a section, from a product of stacked floors into an apparatus for initiating new material configurations.
One of the strategies, suggested by K. Frampton, combines the practice of landscape with material structure. Frampton initiated the "new" concept of Megaform, which is "an urban element which due to its size, content and direction has the capacity to inflect the surrounding landscape and give its particular orientation and identity." In other words, in order to unify the city's rapture and isolated objects, which were left by modernism, urbanism must intervene through large forms. The result is a large continuous horizontal form which is closely connected to the ground. This form, as Frampton argues, has the potential of accommodating large and massive mix use programs, which are all under the roof of one large building. In effect, the building becomes part of the topographic surrounding, and thus turns into a landmark of place-form.
Now, when Frampton explains about the importance of form and size as the main instruments that transform the urban scene, he describes buildings that are loose and almost 'formless'. In other words, their form merges into the landscape, similarly to the way in which infrastructure "randomly" structures the city. In fact, instead of becoming a landmark as Frampton suggests, the idea of landscape urbanism should diffuse the rigidity of the object and work as a charged horizontal surface. Even though Frampton leaves us with a vague understanding of the specificity of the megaform and its ability to become an instrument for spatial organization, we may still notice the fact that size and landscape are related as means that constitutes material organization. However, instead of initiating a huge "organic" structure, one should explore the meaning and potential of the ground's surface. Put differently, following the case in Tel Aviv in which the seafront is conceived as a flat inactivated surface on which different objects are juxtaposed, we should rethink of the thickness of the ground as a material organization. Through this approach, the ground may unify or achieve coherence among differentiated and isolated objects, without the traditional apparatus of space making.
Another way of looking at landscape urbanism is through the potential driven by its topological surface. In the article 'Thick 2D', Stan Allen implies that a topological surface is distinguished by its material and performative characteristics, such as slope, hardness, depth or other material behaviors that support different events . Thus, in effect, the surface turns into a dense field that creates articulated differentiations through the section. An example of an articulated section in architecture can be seen in Koolhaas's early project:' the Hotel and convention center for Agadir' (1990 competition). This project is one of the first attempts to discover the potential of the ground as a thick entity that may intensify and organize space. The voids in the upper split prism are a contemporary interpretation of the Moroccan Kasbah cluster. The form of the inner courtyard, a traditional housing typology, organizes the cluster and brings in light and air. We can almost see the process in action: splitting the prism into two parts, and shifting one prism upward while creating a new artificial topography covered with a column grid. The artificial topography interprets the desert's landscape into "hills" and "valleys" that accommodate large mix use programs and are activated as points of intensification. Instead of having a section that is configured by stacks of levels, the section implies that the ground constitutes the event and the relations between programs and levels. Indeed, Even though this model refers to early spatial configurations of the section, it may already imply of the potential of the ground. This is to say that while thinking about urban interventions, the multiple layers of the ground can be activate, intensify and reorganize the space. Processes such as folding or weaving of the ground initiate different kinds of movements, sights, hierarchy and intimacy, without the conventional space configuration.
Furthermore, Allen points out that one of the most important conditions that emerge from landscape operations is the fact that these surfaces embrace change and accumulation. In contrast to Frampton's interpretation of landscape urbanism through a model of form, for Allen this practice initiates a model of process.
Finally, Allen wrote:" Landscape cannot be designed and controlled as a totality; they are instead scripted as scenarios projected into the future, allowed to grow in and evolve over time" . So, given the fact that the city is a subject for rapid, uncontrolled transformation (due to extreme economic, social and political dynamics), it is important to enable inner-relationships between both the buildings themselves and their surroundings. Similar to the loose frames that infrastructural organization is capable to initiate, here the thickness of the ground may support the relationship between future developments and the existing context.
____________A paradigm [Lack of Intensity]
Clearly, cities may suffer from different problems that emerge on its waterfronts sites. Whereas a city such as Vancouver may suffer from a lack of intensity on its waterfront, Manhattan's waterfront site struggled to overcome its highly intense industrial and commercial activities. Either way, in both exceptional models, although urban design used generic patterns of interventions, it still succeeded to initiate a differentiated urban statement, which affected the city as a whole. However, it is in this context that the most recent masterplans for the Tel Aviv's seafront, proposed by its local municipality, implicitly depict the predicament embedded in urban design that is urbanism's tendency to initiate undifferentiated interventions. In what follows, my aim is to encourage different approaches that may derive change in future urban interventions.
Constructed as the first 'Hebrew city' in 1909, Tel-Aviv developed rapidly and became one of the most successful metropolises, located between Asia and Europe. Today, Tel Aviv is conceived as a global and important center for finance, trading and culture. In order to maintain and even enhance the city's dynamic performances, the recent urban strategies for the seafront aim to exploit the potentials of the site as a catalyst that derives urban transformation. Conceptually, the first thing one should notice is that the recent strategies aim to change the way in which the city relates to the sea. For the last fifty years, the lack of a coherent relationship between the city and the sea became the main critique of Tel Aviv's urban development and growth. In the 9th architecture's Biennale in Venice, the Israeli pavilion, titled" Back to sea" , touched upon Tel Aviv's urban evolution through issues of economic interests driven by the real estate market. It suggested that the city developed without any recognition of the sea as a constitutive force that molds the urban form. Hence, since the early 1960's Tel Aviv's seafront was conceived as an autonomous and open line that was detached both programmatically and spatially from the inner urban patterns. It is in this context that we shall reason through two of the recent urban proposals for Tel Aviv's seafront, which aim to emphasize their capability to enhance the current site's performance. Nevertheless, they indicate upon urbanism's tendency to end up with generic solutions for typical seafront challenges.
Ostensibly, both masterplan schemes aim to respond to the city's spatial and economic requirements. The main strategy is to activate and intensify different parts of the seafront that suffer from either tabula-rasa condition, or from the lack of vibrancy. In doing so, these proposals respond to complex challenges, through generic solutions that may have the ability to overcome the multiple difficulties which derive from these sites. The first proposal:" The Tower Project", suggests adding eleven residential towers as a single urban intervention along the coastline. According to its own bylaw from 1983, based on 'National Master Plan 13', Tel Aviv's seafront should be developed as a tourist oriented linear band that ensures public access to the beach. But the new masterplan contradicts this by offering a mix-use development that includes half hotels and half luxury apartments. This change occurred due to the new trends and demands for luxury residential dwellings. Thus, the local municipality approved the new construction of the 18,000 residential units. The towers are planned to be built just a dozen meters from the waterline along the seafront. They will be built mainly on open plots that have been left between the built environments, or will replace old unused structures. Given the fact that the plan extends from the Tel Aviv's port in the northern part of the city to its southern part (where it reaches Jaffa); it mainly aims to transform the performance of the seafront as a whole.
The second proposal: the' North-West Quarter Plan No.3700', includes a new masterplan for a residential quarter which is located in the north outskirts of the city. The '3700' masterplan aims to activate 5 km of empty, vastly open reserved land. The new residential quarter grows beyond the Yarkon stream until it reaches the city's northern municipal border, and so it is conceived as an extension of the city. One should remember that this site is one of the most valuable assets that are left open for further development in Tel Aviv. Not only does it constitute the first thick band along
the sea line, but it also surrounded by: high-tech clusters, a highly integrated transport networks, luxurious residential neighborhoods and proximity to the city's center. Now, since there is an ongoing demand for residential dwellings, the local municipality decided to activate this part of the city, which offers both proximity to the city's center and 'suburban' lifestyle. Finally, one should notice that this plan seems to respond to the main challenges which derive from a tabula rasa condition along the waterline. This masterplan is based on three generic patterns: the grid, the urban block and the open space. The first pattern is based upon streets and promenades that enable coherence of the urban fabric. According to the plan, the north-south lines of the grid continue from the centre of Tel-Aviv all the way to its northern border. Thus, it establishes the layout for further development. These lines are programmatically differentiated: highway, commercial and leisure. In contrast to the lack of views towards the sea from any promenade in central Tel Aviv, in this plan each of the east-west promenades aims to keep an open and direct view that allows the sea breeze to penetrate into the urban fabric. The second pattern aims to improve the typical block of the modern "garden city", while preserving its size and 'human scale'. Lastly, the open spaces system establishes a hierarchy in relation to its size and use. This continuous system includes the Yarkon parks, green promenades and bicycles paths. Moreover, the plan initiates a differentiated approach to the seafront which respects and preserves the natural qualities of the landscape, such as the cliff, wild plants and the open view.
Both proposals aim to respond differently to the site's specificity and initiate change. However, they indicate on the tendency of urban design to be drawn to generic solutions and typical pattern of intervention. Indeed, we may find the cases of Vancouver and Santa Monica (that have already been outlined in chapters 1) as two counterparts for these generic proposals in relation to seafronts' urban interventions. Similar to Vancouver, the "Tower Project" seeks to find a generic solution that overcomes the lack of vibrancy and intensity via the increase of densities along the
seafront. Activating the site and achieving critical mass through the implementation of towers, can be conceived as a typical Asian model, or even a Mediterranean model that uses tourism or luxurious dwellings to increase densities along the seafront. Nevertheless, the scheme of the "Tower Project", does not resolve all the difficulties confronting the urban condition. First, the site still suffers from the lack of hierarchy or diversity. The empty plots that are left along the rigorous line of the waterline are "filled" by different forms of towers, which are hardly able to establish coherent sequential events. Thus, diversity is absent given the fact that there is no specific node that can be charged by densities and sequences of intensification. Second, even though the masterplan changed the original tourism–oriented functions of the site towards luxuries dwellings, it is unlikely to be able to transform the mono-programmatic activity along the seafront. Finally, one may wonder what are the consequences and affects that may occur on the seafront's site from a solution of 'towers fence', and how much it contributes to the rest of the city. Among different objections against the "Tower
Project", the Tel Aviv branch of the Israel Society for the Protection of Nature said:
"The beach front should be developed in a controlled manner emphasizing the possibility of a sea view, the breeze and the prevention of a massive wall-like front. Most of the developed urban front now blocks the public's right to enjoy, view and access the beach. The unwise addition of tall towers along narrow streets will make the situation worse. The beach is the city's greatest natural and leisure asset, and therefore it is important to carefully protect the principle of balanced development."
That is to say that the most valuable asset of the city, its Mediterranean coastline, should not be forced and manipulate by the power of financial interests. Keeping Vancouver's model in mind - which developed project by project with a clear thinking of the city as a whole - must think whether this scheme is capable of intensifying not only the site itself, but also the parallel lines that grow deeper into the urban fabric.
The case of Santa Monica, our counterpart for the 'North-West Quarter Plan", depicts a different model, which intensifies the seafront and acts as a highly integrated site through generic patterns. The 'North-West Quarter Plan" follows this type of model of highly generic continuous fabric via the virtue of the grid, the block and the open spaces. However, in contrast to Santa Monica's case study, here the sea is not conceived as a dynamic force that shapes the urban fabric; this conception emerges through the constrains that derive from this proposal. Although it seems that the plan "naturally" continues the urban patterns, in effect, it encourages the construction of a defined territory. This is done through specific east-west boundaries that do not enable spatial flexibility that may accommodate change and growth. In addition, in my view the plan avoids any sense of centrality. For example, the programmatic differentiation of the linear lines (highway, commercial and leisure) does not establish a node that may initiate hierarchy or diversity among the homogenous environment. In other words, although it uses generic patterns for material organization that are similar to the Santa Monica model, the plan still faces difficulties with overcoming the challenge of diversity and hierarchy, which are specific to seafront cities. Furthermore, the beach is left open both in Santa Monica and in this masterplan, but there is a fundamental difference. Whereas in Santa Monica model the sea line is conceived a part of a series of differentiated lines that construct the city as a whole, here the masterplan seems to ignore the presence of the sea. Indeed, the plan aims to overcome the challenge of differentiating the coastline by preserving its natural landscape while integrate it through direct east-west open views. However, it does not initiate new relations which can overcome the rapture between the sea and the city through the section. This is to suggest that it lacks any intervention that can exploit the potential embedded the thickness of the ground as a three-dimensional instrument for spatial intensification.
In this context, one may locate the case of the High Line between the two previous models. While these models which aimed to overcome the lack of vibrancy on the seafront, the High Line depicts a model that actually aims to surmount the difficulties that emerge from a highly intensified site. During 1930's the lower side of Manhattan was extremely intensified by the virtue of it being a port where people lived and worked at the same time. The industrial, commercial and residential sectors used the waterfront's vibrancy as an essential resource that was able to enhance productivity, not only in the site itself, but also along the parallel lines that cut through the city. Now since the condition of congestion and intensification led to dangerous consequences, the problem of the section emerged. Hence, infrastructural structures also involve spatial dilemmas that may be explicitly observed through a section. Moreover, in contrast to the previous models that seek to establish a new connection between the city and the sea, through generic patterns, here it seems that New York rebuild its waterfront in a way that recognizes its fundamental functions: to accommodate a working waterfront.
Whether the waterfront lacks vibrancy or even struggles to organize its intense activities, a predicament has emerged in the field of urban design. This is so, because both of the recent materplans for Tel Aviv's seafront indicate urbanism's tendency to come up with generic solutions. How is it, that in one of the most dynamic Mediterranean cities, urbanism does not take the advantage of multi-scalar interventions that re-define the seafront through a coherence statement? For even though these proposals aim to integrate and generate transformation, they seem so arbitrary and are almost incapable to respond to the challenge of scale in relation to the seafront. In this context a question arises: how has urban design reached a point in which it does not seek to derive change via the process of revisiting potentials of scale and size?
Zvi Efrat, an Israeli architect, historian and architecture critic, has already begun to reason about these issues in relation to the Israeli context. In his article "Size", Efrat depicts a paradox within the history of the Zionist movement that led to problems of size and scale that emerged in the Israeli context. He suggests that even though the Zionist movements were generating the 'grand' planning strategies, it did not establish a platform on which issues of scale and size could become part of the urban debate. So, in other words, size didn’t matter. For this reason, Efrat's description of the strategy of this era as growth without reasoning about size or scale is pertinent to our discussion . The city was built according the Zionist's movement political ideology, which was translated into urban strategies. These strategies aimed to occupy vast parts of the land and constructed the country as a single big project. In effect, these strategies generated a specific architectural form which was characterized by low, horizontal and dispersed juxtaposition of objects. Efrat claims that the basic instinct of the modern Zionist plan was to prevent any urban condition of congestion, intensity or density. Hence, to a certain degree, this may explain the current fragmented and dispersed spatial condition of Tel Aviv. However, the concept of size was introduced in the 1960's. Efrat considers this as a turning point in the Israeli debate. Following the visit of Oscar Niemeyer's and I.M.Pei's to Israel in the 1960's, the traditional notion of scale was questioned in relation to urban design. Now, even though none of the foreign proposals were actually built, we can depict their influences via the emergence of the megastructures.
In conclusion, it seems that urban design has reached a point in which is does not seek to rethink the potential of scale. Efrat's argued that urbanism rejected any coherent conception of scale, and instead instantiated large masterplans of expansion and growth. In congruence with Efrat's argument, in my view, today urbanism has reached a position where it ceased believing in the "ostentation" or the "large". Given the fact that urbanism still aims to overcome modernism's consequences, it often reject its chances to rethink and modify the potential of scale. In effect, it appears to be that the recent urban strategies in Tel Aviv do not take the advantage of working with the landscape but rather encourage an undifferentiated plan.
[0.3] _____ Conclusions
It is evident that cities aim to transform their seafronts sites. Indeed, in major cities around the world, urban regeneration projects on cities edges have become a model for change.
However, as architects and urban designers we do not always know how to engage with these complex sites and the extreme challenges they pose. Often, it seems, urbanism reaches a point where it initiates grand masterplans, which do not always manage to fully overcome the various challenges that are driven by issues of scale and section. This thesis is a first attempt to initiate a critical reflection upon urgent issues in the field of urbanism. It suggests differentiated lines of future interventions on seafront's site.
Most workings that reflect on waterfronts sites create a catalogue that elaborates various successful waterfront designs. However, this approach does not provide us with the necessary urban tools to successfully intervene on multiple levels of seafronts sites. Hence, my aim in this thesis was to tackle this subject from a more pragmatic point of view. As an architect, I think that trying to extract the generic problem that derives from seafronts sites is extremely important. Based on this critical reflection, we could then suggest a differentiated line of working. Indeed, in order to avoid urbanism's current tendency to initiate these kinds of typical generic solutions for a city's seafront, this thesis encourages two lines of spatial interventions. First, urban design should intensify the city's edge by activating its coastline and its parallel lines. While these parallel lines act together as a 'thick field' that commences at the sea and moves deeper into the urban fabric, each line is differentiated by context and program. Second, we should begin to work with the section. This is to say that urban design should engage with large pieces of infrastructure that are juxtaposed on cities' edges, and should speculate on these structures' capacity to become a three-dimensional instrument for material organization. Moreover, by the virtue of the thickness of the ground, relationships between future developments and the existing context may be initiated.
Finally, it is clear that the typical characteristics of seafronts, such as edge condition, extreme size and lack of hierarchy, exist in other complex sites in our cities, such as other former industrial sites, that are located in inner-peripheries. Since this is so, urban design also faces similar challenges. In conclusion, I would like to suggest that we should use the concepts of scale and section and the two aforementioned lines of interventions as guiding tools, not only for seafront's sites but when coming to derive change and overcome the lack of vibrancy in our next urban operations in similar complex sites.
Lastly," If this work seems so threatening, this is because it isn't simply eccentric or strange, but competent, rigorously argued, and carrying conviction."
[0.6] _____ References
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