Shared Structures, Private Spaces

Fernanda Canales

This essay is an excerpt of Shared Structures. Private Spaces by Fernanda Canales, published by Actar Publishers.

Books about Mexican architecture rarely mention the real conditions underlying construction: for example, in the capital the earth trembles, the city is built over what used to be a lake, rainwater is sent to drainage systems and causes repeated flooding, and distant rivers are drained dry to serve a population that complains about breathing polluted air and builds more parking lots than schools, hospitals, or parks. How should the buildings in a city that moves, sinks, and floods be? What sense does it make to talk about architecture when there are no plans regarding its links to services? What is the relationship between a building, the conditions of the territory, and peoples’ ways of life?

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Mendel Square: Multilayered History Site


Mirroring much of Brno’s thousand-year-old architectural patrimony, Mendel Square had foregone its historical significance to become one of the city’s primary transportation hubs. It was increasingly sidelined by the city’s inhabitants as it fell into gradual deterioration. Active advocates for the preservation of architectural heritage, CHYBIK + KRISTOF reaffirm their longstanding engagement, as their new design for the site adds the restored Brutalist heritage landmark, Zvonarka Bus Terminal, to the studio’s list of architectural protection initiatives. An homage to the area’s multilayered history, their proposal engages with distinct periods of its past, reflected in the surrounding monuments, all-the-while situating the square as the marker of a new chapter in Brno’s historical and sociocultural narrative.

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Strategic Plan Tacubaya: A Unitary Framework

Estudio Herreros

The Tacubaya Strategic Plan is developed in the area called “Polígono Parcial Tacubaya”, located on the south-east side of the Miguel Hidalgo delegation with an approximate area of ​​142 ha. Like any Strategic Plan, it also seeks to commit to a city model and demonstrate that the proposed actions refer back to a unitary framework that considers the city as a set of social, economic, cultural and urban equations, all affected by different variables such as the quality of public space, residential balance, sustainable mobility, self-autonomous infrastructures and services, added value of the patrimony, and governance adapted to the intentions expressed by the document. But there is more, because none of this will make sense if an essential voice is not given to the neighbors and social groups that meet in the work area: residents, market owners, public transport professionals, street sellers, etc. who have actively participated in the diagnostic and proposal processes of the strategic plan. The ultimate goal is the complete, coherent and cohesive re-qualification of a fragment of a city with its own personality, both before and after, which the plan aims to reinforce.

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The Qinchang Village: Cultural Revitalization Space


Architects: Studio 10
Location: Qinchang, China
Area: 892 m2
Year: 2021
Photography: Chao Zhang

The Qinchang Village Town hall is located directly to the east of the Qinchang Village CPC Community Center in Xiuwu County, Jiaozuo, Henan Province. It is the second phase of the Qinchang Village CPC Center Complex. While Phase I on the west side accommodates mostly non-profit community services programs and ceremonial spaces, the east side focuses on the introduction of small local businesses as well as cultural and recreational programs, including a store selling local farm produce and handicrafts souvenirs, a small café, a restaurant and a gallery, as well as a children’s library. The space here is both a medium and a “generator” to create potential employment and start-up business opportunities for the villagers, exploring an innovative and sustainable model for the economic and cultural revitalization of the rural communities.

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Block, Superblock, and Megablock: A Short Morphological History

David Grahame Shane

This essay is an excerpt of China Lab Guide to Megablock Urbanism by Jeffrey Johnson, Cressica Brazier and Tat Lam, published by Actar Publishers.

The terms block, superblock, and megablock indicate an increasing capacity and scale of urban form and organization over time. This ascending sequence marks the block as an element in a clear urban hierarchy associated with ever-larger cities: the historical city, the modern metropolis and megalopolis, and now the emerging megacities of Asia.

The scale of block dimensions has shifted over time as the block’s area has been enlarged from its small-scale, early beginnings to grid formations with 0.6-hectare blocks, 6.5-hectare superblocks, and megablocks of 65 hecatres or more. Blocks can form regular or irregular networks of streets, designed by collective use or by landowners intent on development. In each case, the block design is often devoted to a single use as the scale increases, reducing the mix of uses in the name of efficiency. At the same time, the grid, or network of streets, provides a framework for nesting multiple blocks of single uses within the city. As the scale of the city expands, regular blocks nest inside superblocks, which in turn nest within megablocks.

Historically, the nesting of blocks provided a potent system of urban organization that only changed when the increasing pace, scale, and sequencing of development created new hierarchies, allowing modern cities to expand in superblocks across open territories. Initially this new approach required the segregation and sorting of all functions, but with more advanced communication and information systems, new hybrids and mixtures have become possible in the megablocks of both rapidly expanding and shrinking cities.

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Ornithological Map / Diving Seabirds

Victoria Helene Haukøya Storemyr

Excerpt from Layered Landscapes Lofoten by Magdalena Haggärde and Gisle Løkken, published by Actar Publishers

Investigations of the conditions of seabirds such as murres, puffins and cormorants, create maps based on their migratory routes, and the resting and feeding areas for the birds, where each spot and connection might be crucial for the species’ viability. These beautiful patterns of survival are of course invisible in most other maps, as they are nonexistent as physical imprint, but once traced they give important meaning and awareness to the understanding of the landscape.

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Imbrication: The Connections of City and Landscape

John Pløger

This essay is part of Layered Landscapes Lofoten by Magdalena Haggärde & Gisle Løkken, published by Actar Publishers.

Imbrication is a metaphor used by a group of architects and the philosopher Henri Lefebvre, when they participated in an international competition on ‘The New Belgrade Urban Structure Improvement’ 1986 (Bitter & Weber 2009). They did not win the competition, but their project is interesting because the group saw imbrication as a ‘method’ to improve the urban structure. They saw imbrication as a “combinatory mode, the situational placement of different elements” (ibid.: 25), and thus tried to reflect on the constitutive forces for both the static, materialised city and the dynamic forces of city life.
They as such implicate an issue that is still crucial to urban planning: How can a structured city have a dynamic socio-spatial form and landscape? How can urban design work as giving space to events and the (everyday) eventalisation of space and place?
Indicating then, but likely not accepting, the ambition of the project points at the crucial role of vitalism and vitalist forces in shaping the use and significance of urban space (Aspen & Pløger 2015), this short article discusses complexity as a reciprocity of forces making interaction, connectivities, and disruptions.

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Urban Dunes. Metropolitan Beaches


Authors: AMB (Daniel Palacios, Alba Barrera, Estela Guàrdia, Aida Girona, Nuria Machuca)
Location: Metropolitan Barcelona, Spain
Year: from 2014
Photography: AMB, Adrià Goula, Maria José Reyes and Robert Ramos

Dune areas are the sand reservoir of beaches. They are spaces for biodiversity and buffers against storm surge. The construction and management of dunes responds to the need to ensure that metropolitan beaches continue to exist, that they do not disappear due to the effects of the sea and erosion.

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Improving Metropolitan Beaches


Interview by Marta Bugés. Filmed by Rubén Molina.
Project footage courtesy of AMB.
Edited by Sara Traba.

Daniel Palacios, Head of AMB Beaches Service, and Nuria Machuca, Responsible for AMB Public Space Educational Projects, talk about the Urban Dunes project for the metropolitan beaches of Barcelona.

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