Notes, Thoughts and Summaries

From Site Matters - Defining Urban Sites by Andrea Kahn

An urban site should be always thought of as related to its surroundings, permeable to all kinds of effects. An urban site has many overlapping spaces. It's more dynamic and messy than we might think. Representation is a conceptual tool for creating knowledge rather than depicting reality as it is. It is organizing facts, figures and impressions of a given condition in such a way that it presents a unique construction and explanation of reality. Since reality is very complex, a million such constructions may be possible, all of them completing parts of a complex whole that is difficult to imagine all together.

Concepts for urban site thinking:
Mobile ground:
Designers working on projects with urban aspirations have to take into account that there are different people with interests in the site or its urban context. They all have their own views of how they want to envision it, since each of them have their own preferred mode of representation, but one person's knowledge rarely conforms to the knowledge held by others. So designers have to keep shifting between the different views until a mobile ground is defined, over which the designer later decides the conditions of his project. In this way, the project ends up being flexible and dynamic, framing urban relations and structuring urban processes.
Site Reach:
Urban sites participate in many different scaled networks at once, so it's important to show the site reach not by locating its boundaries, but by overlapping distinct uses and boundaries that tie it to other places around it. The reaches of a site depend on the spacial and operational extension of those associations and connectivities that tie it to other places.
Site Construction:
Site analysis prefigures and reflects design intentions. We analyze a site in a certain way because we're already thinking of how to modify it, and we modify it according to how we initially analyze it. Site construction also depends on viewing the site as having a complex identity and complex relations with its surroundings, and viewing it from different angles.

High performance sites by Carol J. Burns:
Interdisciplinary, collaborative approach at the beginning stages of design. This accelerates progress, eliminates redundant efforts, engenders commitment to decisions, reduces errors and identifies synergistic opportunities.
In the high-performance model, the site is considered re-iteratively at many scales: at the scale of ecology and multiple generations, at the scale of the property, at the scale of the building, and at the scale of building systems and components. These are integrated across the site, and linked on out to regional and global scales. Conceived not as objects, the site and the building are brought into existence together. In this sense, light, air, and solar inputs can be deployed as building resources, and though non-exhaustible, are similar to the use of resources extracted within the pre-industrial model of building.
It should be recognized that the site is at the same time a cultural construct and a material reality. Architecture participates in a world of living systems and entities, and design includes the process of participating components organize local lived situations.

From Field Conditions by Stan Allen:

Stan Allen primarily talks about fields and how relationships in fields occur. He brings as examples the Mosque of Cordoba, and shows how it's different parts are combined additively to form an indeterminate whole. When it is expanded in later years, its parts maintain the same relations to each other as in the first version. The overall form is not static; there is no general rule or guide for the shape of the whole. Another example he brings is Le Corbusier's Venice Hospital. It is made up of a series of repeated parts, with links to the city fabric at the edges. The basic block, the care unit is repeated throughout, and the blocks are rotated or displaced in order to provide passages from one unit to another.
Another main theme Allen talks about is minimalism and post-minimalism. He gives some historical background, and focuses particularly on post-minimalism. Post-minimalist artists like Le Va, worked with flexible and fluid materials to make sculptures. Le Va called his works distributions, which are, he explains, sequences of events. Local relationships are more important than overall form. In the sculptural sense, the artists applied constraints or control over certain points in their work, and allowed their materials to work their way through it, in the end forming an end product. In the architectural sense, the field is characterized by fluctuations or intensification of experience at certain points in the urban fabric.
Overall, Allen calls for an architecture that admits change, accident, and improvisation. It is an architecture not invested in durability, stability and certainty, but an architecture that leaves space for the uncertainty of the real.

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