You are on page 1of 8

ELS VERBAKEL 97

PERform AACU MENT sworn . seems not to overcome


The plan, fixing a moment In the future of a larger process over time, can affect The apparent opposition the gap demon strated above.
the future only when it provokes change. Understanding the plan as a dynamic between shape and space does In a l ectu re at Pri nceton
design too l challenges the role of architecture as an activity that happens
not mea n they can or should be Univ ers ity o n February 24
only after the urban design process, as in the totalitarian regime of an urban
d isconnected i n architecture. 2005, Kool haas stated tha t
ma sterplan. Shape can generate space and vi ce versa. Architect s and urban
designers can develop generative design processes by aiming for a dynamic result, Shape rem ai ns the bas ic tool for t he fiel d of architecture doe s
a performance rather than a product. The architecture of urban design operates architects and u rban designers not bene fi t fro m the popu lar
between the shape of the built environment and Its spatial experience and effect. t o crea t e space. Yet shape has at tent ion given t o pro jects such
becom e t he prim ary end of as the Guggen heim Mu seum
TRANSform archi tect ure. w ith space now in Bilbao or t he new MOM A i n
An architectural project often assumes the Insertion a foreign form into a site. only a seconda ry, u ni n tentio nal New York, bu i ldings th at are
Vet in reality, architecture transforms existing spaces - both local and remote by- product . Th is disju nction m ai nly ta lked abo ut, inst ea d
- into new spaces. Transforming spaces requires decisions of reiteration,
between shape and space has of be i ng in habit ed. Showcasing
comb in ation, linkage and reference , moving between existing conditions and
ha unted t he discipline for a series of proje cts , Kool haas
future project ions. It tran slate s forms into other forms and the reby manipulates
the relationship between forms and their Inherent spatiality. Thinking the centuries , but became more tried to dem onstrate the social
architectural project as a particip ant and agent in larger environmental prominent throughout the amb itions and polirical power of
transformations offers a possibility to see space as a powerful tool for soc ial twentieth century where the his archi t ecture.
change. Transforming, rather than designing, space t hus narrows t he gap dilemma was answered with
between archit ect ure and urban design. ' form follows function.' While
offering a plausible solut ion ,
INform
the legacy of modernism tore
The shape of space can be seen as recording it s hist ory, Its future potential, its
apart the two components of the
relationship to the su rroundings and its int ernal logic. How this information
built env ironment.
acquires meaning - the shape of mapping, diagramming and charting - is
on the other hand spatially congruent wit h the environment it represents.
Informing operat es between the space of the surroundings and the shape of The current climate of
its representation. architectu re discourages
social ambit ions. lamented
by influential fig ures such as
Rem Koo lhaas, w ho argues t hat
bu ildi ngs should be devices
rath er than forms . Yet eve n t h is
aut ho r of t he arch it ectu re bi ble
o n w h ich so m any arch it ect s
and u rban designers have
!!Iii ~ .u ur aan c.;onsreuanons

THE ARCHITECTURE OF
~URBAN DESICN

ELS VERBAl<EL

MANIFESTO three-dimensional GIS mappings architecture of urban design surroundings and the shape of
Much of today's arch i tecture and an d multi-layered 'datascapes ' questions the role of archit ecture its rep rese ntation; between the
urba n design practice operates in that nevertheless lead to in the city and/or i ts urban shape of the diagram and the
a state of refutation In building, practices rarely surpassing the surroundings. It searches for the shape of a building; between the
as in discourse, architects have conventional production of urban structural processes and systems shape of the built environment
aban doned their primary role space. If an urg e still exists that belong to an urban project , and its spatial experience and
as space-makers, occupying to create innovative spaces offering an approac h to the built effect, I propose three essen t ial
themselves. instead. with a that respond to contemporary environment in which urban operations; PERform. INform
search for the justification of problems and needs, arch itecture design materializes in built form. and TRANSfo rm. bringing shape
form. Architecture magazines and urban design both must and architecture aspires to be a back to its origin in form as
celebrate recently completed reco nsider the gap they have piece of th e ci ty. means rather than end.
buildings mostly as innovative created between space-making
forms or global i cons, not as and shape-making. They must In the search for tools t o move
successful architectural spaces. search for new linkages between between the space of t he
Numerous academic design these two processes.
studios directly t ranslate energy
SHAPE has no scale. Akin to form (the focus of the modernist movement) shape
di agrams or so ftwa re logarithms The "architecture of urban
has become a preoccupation of po stmodernism and contemporary practice.
to generate innovative, design" offers such a linkage.
Therefore l su ggest the following distinction. While both shape and form are
compelling and beautiful forms. Archi tecture has never been fully three -dimens ional, form "'detaches" from meaning and identity, whereas shape
These shape -making practices successful without an urban remains in the platonic realm o f geometry. Shape is form endowed with meaning
pro duce exciting and sometimes consciousness, while urban and ident ity; it can be recognized in terms of resemblance and congruence and
revol utionary architectures, yet design has always involved t herefore lends i tself well to contemporary economic projects of branding and
without fu lly understanding its manifestation th rough identit y creation.
how these shapes affect spatial built form. The architecture of
SPACE on the othe r hand depends on scale and experience. As Henri Lefebvre and
experience. the architect 's ability urban design foregrounds an
Michel Foucau lt suggest, space does not exist without the human senses , it is
to provide adequate spaces irreversible mixture between
produced by them . Therefore it does not restrict itsel f to the separat ion between
for an ever-changing w orld disciplines artificially sep arated
interior and exterior. yet exists as much in the transition between t he two. Space
rema ins limited. in the de tach ment of SHAPE is inhabited by users. As a multidimensiona l physical environment, any particular
from SPACE . Architectu re. in space only exists as part of a la rger space. As opposed to the modernist view of
Contemporary urban design th is case. refers first to the in finite space. which transcends the human scale, space needs human and non ·
discourse runs parallel physica li t y of a building but human life in motion: it does not exist without tempora llty.
experi ments with new forms of also to the systematic structure
information such as complex of the design process. The
58 :i.D Uri> an Gonsre11anons

TRANSform. Wilderness: a place where we are confronted with the presence


of somethi ng other than human: a world of beasts and gods. Ye t a cultural
construct makes us associate wi lderness with ce rta in places, as shown by the
drastic historical shifts in perception of t he wo rd "wi lderness" ranging from hell
to heaven. "The City of Wilderness (2005) ," a theoretical design investigation of
possible t ransformations of the border between France and Belgium, searches
for a new definition of wilderness. Infrastructure and the rive r pl ay new roles
as the spines of an emerging supranational city at the border. Th is is indicated
by highlighting the newly formed river islands and extrapolating urban growth
to a fu ture city. The historical evolu tion of agrarian lot divisions suggests the
changing role of agri culture in the Eu ropean city of sprawl. In the future city this
His lecture ended w ith a circu lar expl ains: "A ny pol it ica l rural carpet can fulfill its role as a productive landscape, but at the same time it
circus tent erected i n Brusse ls' interp retation of the work is becomes part of a new landscape of urban wilderness.
European Quarter ex hi biti ng entire ly at the d iscretion of the
a panoramic collage sampling reader.'" What then rema ins
i ma ge s of the history of Europe of the radica l politica l action?
and the Euro pea n Union . Symptomatic of twenty-firs t
Kool haa s rendered h is tent as a century architecture 's search
'radical political experiment'; i t for reconnecting shape anci
became the 'center of poli ti cal space, this example foregrounds
life' and architecture became the difficulty of overcoming
'real po litical action.' Yet of ali archi tectura l movements of t he
the project s l<oolhaas showed twenti eth century.
that evening. the ten t was the
least permanent, the least Contemporary urban contexts do
phys ical ly structured and could not ma!<e things easier. " Publ ic
hardly be ca ll ed a building. space" is privatized. Historic
The t ent served mostly as a city centers have transformed
symb ol ic reference and d isp!av i nto open-a i r shopping malis.
structure, focusing mai nly The media manipul ates
on the information that was politi cally contested space in a
presented . rather tha n the virtual world, as recen tly seen
space generated. It s shape was in the American army's press
therefore purely sel f-referent ial center in Iraq.
and not connected to a soc ially
respons ibl e space. Moreover,
as a projec t co nceived by AMO.
it was a p roduct of Koolhaas '
recent shift to consultancy,
a practic e at the service of
other peop le's i ntentions and
actions. Is this then the pat h
for architects to return to
soci al ambi t ions., A disclaimer
on t he exh i bition publication

1
AMO, ~'Th(' 1mage of t:urope," r&nnex t o Volu me ::1. {Ardtis vol.20.•1~, Archis
Fmcndatiou: Amsrerdam
ELS VERBAKEL 99

INform . As the EU strengthens its global identity and expands its territory. areas
traditionally resistant to stabili zation by national borders , are tran sforming and
makin g space for a new type of urba n environment . These u nclai med a-territories
- a type of wild erness - provide space for a new transna tional, European
urbanism. In Flanders Fields, m irror-town s have developed on both sides of the
border between France and Belgium. This type of border urbanization opens up
opportunity for an advantageous symbiosis of urban density and the qualities of
wlld nature. The Menen-Wervik-Comines area harbors multiple territorial patches
between nations. languages, agglomerations and communities. This distinct
web of cultural. economic and social relationships dllutes the clarity of different
ident ities. Slowly, small er patc hes gain power. dissolving t he nati onal border.

NATU)KAL SO(QEfi'S u.Nc;UA.GE ICROEM


0,t.ll(f .In,~ f U....CHAN) r->.!...,,.OJlCfo • ll~OIJ?C> • .._~.,.,"""°

PERform. The hi storica l evolution of t he mi rror towns of Menen, Wervik and


Com in es merges two sides of t he border. Stra ightening t he natural course of the
river, which historica lly delineated the border, created a series of "in -between"
islands. Now, these pockets of unc laimed space can assume a new identity as
potentially inter-territorial zones. a supranational city. This border landscape
can reconnect internat ional territories. overlooked landscapes and human
inhabitation. It can link cultures on the grounds of a common urban landscape
- the city of wildern ess . Structures inserted into the river islands allow a city of
wilderness to grow. These interventions focus on bringing new urba n functions
to th e bord er territory by exploiting unutili zed land t hickets. The ir functions,
usually found In edge cities, are now transplanted to become t he core of a
city of wilderness.
IUU :t.U V t 'UU1' LUl&b'lt:UUllUIW

PU8LIEK
,......
----- - -- ~----- -- r - --- - ---- ,

I I I
I
I

JEUGOCEHTRUH

" Everyday" spa ce fi nds history - in Greek agorae and


itself under absolute control Roman fora. ch urch squares and
of the "free" market. The street co rner prophets, street
withdrawal of architecture demonstrations and love parades
from its environment has not - where power and freedom find
completely been recovered even a balance.
with the recent rapprochement
of landscape, urbanism and The 21st cen tu ry calls for
architecture. The tension architects to reclaim the power V~Al.IG
GEHEEHTEHUIS
between shape and space of space or. more preci sely, the
inherent to architectu re and urbanism of arch itect ure. This
urba n design has been allowed requires neither a revo lution nor
to dissolve itself in a complete a comple te reversal of society.
separation due t o the removal of Renewal can take pl ace from
social power from architecture. within, by striving for a more I
With the triumph of a liberal1st sensitive understanding of the
- -- ----- L-------L --- - ---
capitalist society following contemporary characteristics
the American model. power of urban space. Architects
can now only be exercised and urban designers need to
by the marketplace. Society take up their responsibility t o
PERform. If we want to reinsert landscape qualities in the heart of the town
can no longer accept space in re· learn the agency of space
of Bonheiden, Belgium both design and policy must be flexible and creative. To
any other form . Even in the through shape and take on the achieve this, we developed a toolbox, a collection of urban interventions in which
social democracies of Europe, difficult and challengi ng role of the landscape serves as po int of departure . The structure of the toolbox is based
the monetary logic of the space- make r. One m ight argue on th ree spatia l registers. characteristic for t he urban configuration of Bonhelden:
organizat ion of spa ce has gained that architect s pre dominantly - Fields: spaces suc h as squares, parks and natural domains
new grounds. The archi tecture of co ncerned with shape-making, - Lines: t he continuous space along streets and paths
urban design does not argue for such as Frank Gehry and Greg - Points: architectural structures and art installations
totalitarianism or dictators hips Lynn, are ac tual ly concerned with
that employ space as a tool bringing architecture back to the
for manifesting and exercising public. However. these examples
INform. In t he tool-box, all project components are composed according to
absolute power. However. do not return power to space. v location (horlzontally) and to category (vertically). We submitted this tool-box
instances exist throughout to the town as an alternative for a masterplan. Instead of a fixed predefined
document, we suggested an open source matrix which can be "mastered" by the
design team, the town and its inhabitants. The tool-box allows for location -based
and category-based implementation strategies.
ELS VERBAKEL 101

TRANSform. Modifying elements and existing relationships between built


f abric and nature produces new hybrid urban conditions. Buildings are nature.
Landscapes becom e the connective t issue of the city. Bonh ei den tran sforms
into a place with an Intense and complex urbanity in which landscape plays the
leading role .

® HANGENDE TUINMODULE
G'KIENE SfRUCT\.1.#t DI! KAN WORDEN fOEGE"IOEGD AAH ee:su.&JC>E WOtOHGEN

@ PLUG-IN TERRAS
P.UD1f BESCJERtClE T!RRASSE.N YOCIA: K&RGEZ IHSWQt(1NC£N
1o;z ~ .u uraan t,;onsreuanons

Instead they subdue ar(h itecture at all. Speculators. developers, INform. We documented each typological components of the project by
to society ' s economic demands engineers and planners attaching an ID card that specifies the component's location, architectu re,
by molding its shapes to respond conti nuously buil d new spaces of investment, u rban impact and revenue. This allows components to be assessed
in communication with the town and its inhabitants throughout t he process of
t o public taste, leaving behind " life," "consumption," "travel,"
Implementation. Every component can be implemented independently of the
any form of crit ical ity. soci al or and "enterta ining" dictated by
general plan. as a stimulator of the surrounding urban space. Moreover, every
political stance. Contemporary the equation between cost and urban intervention comes with a description of the spatial value, cost and effect
con cepts of advanced cap italist reven ue. Gaining insight into on the urban fabric. This empowers the town to participate in the urban design
economies such as mass these mechanisms of space - process by selecting inte rventions based on locatio n, category, cost and desired
cus tomization, public icons making involves a close study results. A piecemeal and guided approach perm its greater flexibility but also
and branding dominate t heir of the way in wh ich t he spaces offers space for close collaboration with inhabitants and other user groups. This
work. Finding an an swer to of ca pitalism operate and relate feedback-mechanism allows the results of the interventions to be con tinuously
these at titu des of surrendering to one another. Th erefore it is evaluated and redirected before planning further Investments.
archi tecture to cap italis m import ant to t hink of spa ce as a
requi res fi rst a renewed multi-scalar system, whereby the
understan ding of t he way in building in t erior stands in direct
wh ich spa(e is produced by t hat re lationship to the street. the
society itself, often wi t hout square, the city.
: ; : . ! ... .. ~• · l.
t he involvement of architects

~~t UNt n?JiNG ~\.II!! ~ IH~~Tr~ ~ .:t.t!M:! !NrtU'Ttfl H;


~ F,t.;mc\IU fR!lol ~ • IM':miE~· II~ MMCICU l AAtN
<;t$08J;IO:ttAO OOOtt
"" Y!:P.l'IUJl't f N " "-"ili0-
6!"'(, "AS1'GC(~
(ltTIU IJ-"~l l'l'ft:
EH Yf)lMOGWG '<A$'T·
CCOfl'AA~
; "f1.r.~ i..n ~.Hl oVlt'.'N v~
.~.: '.1'11\'J~!'llUl!,ll• Y~~llAN >'Ot.U· R.l ~'E i!fst<1~ r(r~A~ *°J:.'1TfU .J(e ~-WCJ•
"-"..!· W"K.Et.ITOf4fW!e";!> P"¥.li(U$ l,llt(),$CM ..., :IH"'.~11ff"R(i!!!t6-
•.,..S!'Sto.1i.>!~a;f11
ELS VERBAKEL 103

TRANSform . Imagin e that landscape becomes the most importan t component of


the public space in the t own of Bonhe iden . once fa med for the typ ical la nd scape
of heath. fenland, marsh land and forests . With the further transformation of
the agrarian suburban village into an urbanized and den sified town. the In itial
reason for settling here is disappearing. Our design neither replaces nor erases
the identity of recognizable public spaces: rather, the reintroduction of a heath
landscape and the Insertion of structure remolds the town center.

Related Interests