The Urban Street: A Conduit for Vitality and Multimodal Movement in the City
Info: 6031 words (24 pages) Example Literature Review
Published: 6th Dec 2021
Tagged: ArchitectureDesignSocial Studies
Active Frontages 3
The Battle of the Car and Pedestrian 4
Networks and Form 5
Identity and Place 7
STRØGET CASE STUDY
Active Frontages 9
The Battle of the Car and Pedestrian 10
Networks and Form 11
Identity and Place 12-13
"Streets and their sidewalks, the main public places of a city are its most vital organs. Think of a city and what comes to mind? Its streets. If a city's streets look interesting, the city looks interesting; if they look dull, the city looks dull" (Jacobs, 1961:29)
Figure 1 – Nolli map of Strøget
Here Jacobs identifies the street's important role in the success of the complex build-up of urban places and cities. The neglect of the street in favour of the car in cities has seen them being replaced with roads, forgetting who we must build our cities for – the people. For the street and consequently city to succeed; life, opportunity and variety needs to be brought back to the streets. A key to this is 'vitality', described by Montgomery as (2007:271), "the numbers of people in and around the street across different times of the day and night, the uptake of facilities, the number of cultural events and celebrations over the year, the presence of an active street life, and generally the extent to which a place feels alive or lively". This can be aided by multimodal streets which, according to Global designing cities (a n.d.), "offer people options for safe, attractive, and convenient travel by foot, by cycle, on transit, as well as in motorized vehicles". Contrasting to the prioritisation of the car, prominence needs to be given to pedestrians increasing movement in the city. To achieve this Speck (2017) argues the the 'General theory of walkability' is imperative to promote the simultaneous offer of 4 things: "a proper reason to walk, the walk has to be safe, the walk has to be comfortable, the walk has to be interesting".
Through the exploration of factors which define the success of streets, their impact on the vitality and multimodal movement of the city can be assessed. This will be compiled into the study of Strøget, Copenhagen, analysing how the pioneering street design impacted the entire cities way of life.
Jacobs (1961:35) states that "There must be eyes upon the street, eyes belonging to those we might call the natural proprietors of the street". Passive onlooking from inside onto the street makes people on the street feel safer; consequently, the street as a route or destination increases. The street as a destination is enforced through the dual aspect to 'eyes on the street'; observation of activity inside encourages people to occupy them. Road-side space encourages this further, catering for the spill of activity from bars and restaurants in the form of seating and interaction. These interactions are backed up through Jahn Gehl's study on Strøge:
"The opportunity to see, hear, and meet others can also be shown to be one of the most important attractions in city centres and on pedestrian streets" (Gehl, 2011:28). It recognises pedestrians stop the least in front of buildings with little activity such as banks and dull window displays. In contrast, the most activity was seen in front of shops relating to the environment or people.
The definition of public frontage and private backs can be used to enliven the street, with "Concentration of special use or activity along a street may give it prominence in the minds of observers" (Lynch, 1964:50). If this isn't achieved, the exposure of blank sides and services creates a hostile environment. Continuous building forms along the street, provide enclosure also helping identify private and public functions. Visual stimulation is enhanced through "windows with displays, signs to attract your attention, doorways, people going in and out of them" (Whyte, 1980:57), promoting interaction. In Urban Design Compendium 1, a scale from grade A to E is used to determine how successfully a frontage along a street performs. The scale is based upon the frequency of doors and windows, range of functions, articulation of relief, vertical and horizontal rhythms, visible activity internally or spilling onto the street. These elements help to retain activity and movement on the street, helping business and vitality.
Figure 3 - Strøge, Copenhagen Figure 2 - An example of poor facade design
The Battle of the Car and Pedestrian
The mid-20th century saw the increasing dominance of the car and consequent priority over pedestrians. However, provision for different modes of transport should be provided through "shared corridors" (Llewelyn-Davies, 2007 b:94) as "The significance of quality improvement to daily and social activities in cities can be observed where pedestrian streets or traffic-free zones have been established in existing urban areas"(Gehl, 2011:33). Speck (2017) states that "2 lanes can handle 10,000 cars per day" and many studies in the US show that car domination is due to the number and size of lanes not being representative of traffic volume. Therefore, successful multimodal streets reduce lanes for cars to suit traffic volume; and increase cycle lanes, trees and seating, making the city a more walkable environment. Arguably separation of these modes into lanes is not efficient and various models have been tested to combat this. Hourly or daily controls can be used to dictate transport use at certain times, maintaining safety and preventing congestion. Alternatively, materiality on the floor can be used as a traffic calming device, slowing cars down as they are no longer the priority. This allows cars, pedestrians and cyclists to integrate safely. A study of Barcelona shows a city-wide approach:
Driven by high levels of air pollution, in 2014 Barcelona's urban mobility plan hoped to reduced traffic by 21% using superblocks. The introduction of 'slow streets' in the blocks saw speed limits recued and parking moved underground resulting in "a pleasant streetscape where people can walk around and mingle and do things without this constant fear of cars around" (Superblocks: How Barcelona is taking city streets back from cars, 2016)
It is therefore evident that a multi-modal approach can be achieved in a variety of ways without having to exclude certain types of transport in the city. Arguably a network of pedestrian only and shared streets is the most effective method of delivery.
Figure 4 - Superblock model Figure 5 - Las Ramblas, Barcelona
Networks and Form
The success of the individual street relies on the greater 'movement framework' which "concerns structural aspects of movement, focusing on the street and footpath networks" (Llewelyn-Davies, 2007 a:34). A successful framework provides maximum choice in how people make their journey; accounting for all types of movement, connecting to existing routes and facilities. This can be encouraged by maximising direct connections from main streets to other main streets or major amenities. However Jacobs states (1961:409), "Planning for vitality must promote continuous networks of local street neighbourhoods, whose users and informal proprietors can count to the upmost in keeping the public spaces of the city safe", meaning the network of minor streets must also be considered. These connections don't have to be vehicular. In fact, an increased footfall on the street will increased the success of businesses on the street, helping to "form part of a wellconnected network" (Llewelyn-Davies 2007 b:94) as outlined in 'The Manual for Streets'. The form of these networks can effectively be established through a grid; orthogonal or irregular.
Figure 6 – Portland street network Figure 7 – Rome street network
With reference to form, Moughtin states that "The ratio of width of street to height of enclosing buildings is critical for good street design" (Moughtin, 2003:103). The balance between effective daylight and a sense of enclosure is essential. The 2 walls defining a street present different qualities to a square, and the ideal ratio outlined in Design Compendium 1 can be seen in the table below:
Figure 8 – Comparing ratios for successful enclosure
It is also important that the street form varies as "The most memorable routes are often those with a varied sequence of long and short views, terminated with landmarks. Street cross-sections designed to reflect the relative importance and use of routes will help users to move around with confidence" (Llewelyn-Davies, 2007 a:62).
For Montgomery a key aspect in ensuring the vitality of the city is "Patterns of mixed land use enabling self-improvement and small-scale investment in property" (Heath, Oc & Tisdel, 2010:206). This mix of amenities provides choice and opportunity, ensuring the greatest proportion of people at any given time can be satisfied. This idea contrasts to zoning and separation of functions. Instead, new urbanism suggests that "Sprawl and the traditional neighbourhood contain the same things, its just how big are they and how close are they to each other and how are they interspersed together, and do you have a street network rather than a col-de-sac collector system of streets" (Speck, 2017). Therefore, effective cities adopt mixed- use rather than 'Euclidian Zoning' reducing the reliance on cars, instead all amenities are within walking distance. This also means that the city can become accessible for all rather than just those who are able to own or use a car.
Figure 9 - 'Euclidian Zoning' vs Mixed-Use
According to Jacobs (1961:153) the success of place depends on the movement of people and "The continuity of this movement (which gives the street its safety) depends on an economic foundation of basic mixed uses". Amenities often help create a sense of community, and accessibility for pedestrians should be prioritised. Therefore, a variety of amenities should be within walking distance and the journey of the pedestrian should be considered with regards to quality, accounting for crossing with large roads. This will ensure the continuous movement on the street making them vibrant and safe.
Figur e 10 - South Kensington Road, London: features restaurants shops and museums within walking distance
Identity and Place
"Part of the urban design lexicon is the 'genius loci', the prevalent feeling of place" (LlewelynDavies, 2007 a:22). The street is one of the aspects which contributes to building the perception and identity of a place. Lynch (1964:51) highlights the individual streets role in creating the wider identity of urban places - "Where major paths lacked identity, or were easily confused one for the other, the entire city image was in difficulty". Local materials, historical elements, public art, façade rhythms and street furniture all have the potential to create an identity. In order to achieve this, they must be integrated into the design process at the start rather than add-ons in order to achieve a sense of continuity suggest by Lynch (1964:106) "These are the qualities that facilitate the perception of a complex physical reality as one or as interrelated, the qualities which suggest the bestowing of single identity".
An example of this can be seen at Montreal's light installation where a hub of activity in the form of 30 illuminated seesaws producing music acts as a buffer in between pedestrians and cars. Rossi states "Every year, we are eager to give Montrealer's a new creative winter experience in the heart of the Quartier des Spectacles" (McKnight 2015) which adds to this party of the city's identity.
Figure 12 - Melbourne's Laneway's artwork and musicians Figure 11 - Montreal light installation giving identity
The creation of an identity enables a community to flourish - "Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody" (Jacobs, 1961:238). The achievement on placemaking and consequently community on an individual street creates a hub of activity attracting people, drawing people into the heart of the city.
CASE STUDY: Strøget, Copenhagen
"The change in Copenhagen was far gentler. "If you do it slowly and don't tell anyone, no-one will notice it," Gehl said" (CPHpost (n.d.))
Copenhagen, meaning 'merchants harbour', grew its medieval street patterns around the fortified harbour. The neo-classical architecture developed in the 1800s provides the city with an identity. Post-war Copenhagen relied on the car - "No cars means no customers and no customers means no business," said tradesmen" (Gehl Architects, n.d.:2). However, this changed in the 1960s due to influence from Germany's new 1950s models.
Strøget a main arterial street was the first street in Copenhagen to permanently become pedestrianised. Despite initial rejection, its success which will be discussed, saw the development of an accessible network across the city. "In Gehl's view, making a city liveable means breathing life between the buildings" (CPHpost (n.d.)). Jan Gehl's 1962 studies helped to develop the idea of the street for the people in Copenhagen. The 1.1km street achieves this in a variety of ways, inviting a variety of people to occupy it.
Figure 13 - Ariel view of Copenhagen
Figure 14 – The 1.1km street in context of Copenhagen
Figure 15 – Map showing gradual pedestrianisation of streets in Copenhagen
A study of Strøget in the 1960s by the School of Architecture at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts concluded that "It was obvious that human activities, being able to see other people in action, constituted the area's main attraction" (Gehl, 2011:29). This is aided on Strøget through multiple devices. One of these being the introduction of seating on the street. As stated by Gehl, "At sidewalk cafes, as well, the life on the sidewalk in front of the cafe is the prime attraction". This can be seen on Strøget in the form of café seating spilling out onto the street creating life on the street, with Global designing cities (b n.d.) stating an "81% increase in outdoor café seating, from 2,970 seats in 1986 to 7,020 in 2006".
As with many buildings in Copenhagen, Strøget features "shops on the ground floor, offices in the middle storeys and residences in the top storeys" (Gehl Architects, n.d.:2). This mix of functions helps to promote Jacobs 'eyes on the street' idea in order to help promote safe and overlooked streets day and night. The "four- to five-storey buildings with relatively short facades, give the streets of the city an interesting and varied rhythm" ((Gehl Architects, n.d.:2). This helps to enliven frontages; especially of shops resulting in a "400% increase in stopping and staying activities from 1968 to 1966" according to Global designing cities (b n.d.).
onto the street
The Battle of the Car and Pedestrian
In the mid-1900s Gehl recalls the ease of being able to park in Copenhagen's city centre. However according to CPHpost (2012), "If you do it slowly and don't tell anyone, no-one will notice it" approach was adopted to the city and over time road closures made it more and more difficult for cars to move around the city centre. Further enforced by a former colleague of Gehl stating "If the cars can't park, they won't come" (CPHpost,2012). This logic was pioneered by Strøget. Previously shutting itself off to cars for 2 days over Christmas, a pedestrianisation trial beginning in 1962. By
"November 1962, half-disguised as an extended holiday closure, the Strøgetwent car-freefor good". Despite protest to what many thought would fail, a "35% increase in pedestrian volumes in the first year after conversion" (Global designing cities, b n.d.) demonstrating its popularity. The success of the decision continued to grow in popularity and according to Global designing cities (b n.d.) a
"600% increase in pedestrian space, from 15,800m2 in 1962 to 99,700 m2 in 2005" was achieved. Figure 20 shows that this was achieved by removing the road, parking spaces and curbs to form one flat 10-12m surface for pedestrians. Furthermore, since 1962 "parking has been removed from a total of 18 squares" ((Gehl Architects, n.d.:2) and converted into lively pedestrianised public spaces. An example of this was Amager Square which is situated in the centre of Strøget, now acting as a place to visit rather than pass through.
Figure 18 - Before pedestrianisation
Figure 19 - wide fully pedestrianised streets
Figure 20 - Type of street traffic pre 1962 vs now, plan view
Networks and Form
The 1.1km street is a main artery in the irregular grid of Copenhagen's pedestrian network. Figure 21 demonstrates the winding form of the street providing changes of views and direction. The street is punctuated with 3 different squares; 2 of which act as bookends to the street. The street acts a connector between these 2 main squares. The map also shows that the street is well connected to other pedestrianised streets as well as normal multi-modal streets providing linkage to the wider city and choice of transport. Further contributing to the multi-modal city, investment in cycling infrastructure on streets such as Strøget has increased the popularity of cycling. The increase in cyclists since 1970 can be seen in figure 10. This has arguably made Copenhagen "home of possibly the world's most elaborate inner-city pedestrian and bicycle networks" (Turner, 2008).
Figure 21 - Map showing Strøget linked to 3 squares Figure 22 – Graph showing the increase in bike use in Copenhagen since 1970
Due to most of the buildings being 4-5 storeys high, with each storey being approximately 3m, and width being 10-12m. The height to width ratio of the street is a minimum of 1:1 and maximum of 1:1.5. The maximum therefore hits the target goal of 1.15 outlined in figure 8 achieving a sense of enclosure. The wide streets help ease congestion and the varied form promoted by Llewelyn-Davies is achieved.
Figure 23 - Street section achieving a sense of enclosure
In Copenhagen, before the 1906s city life was limited as there was "previously no physical possibility for its existence" (Gehl, 2011:37). However, studies undertaken in Copenhagen from the 1960s onwards, demonstrate that there has been a "heavy growth especially in the recreational activities of the city" (Gehl Architects, n.d.:5). With "recreational activities on the streets and squares of the city centre on a summer day increased by 3.5 times" (Gehl Architects, n.d.:5). This is due to the variation of opportunities provided in the city in a mixed-use manner. Speaking about Strøget, Gehl recognises that "Today this major pedestrian street, plus a number of other pedestrian streets later added to the system, are filled to capacity with people walking, sitting, watching events, playing music, and talking together"( Gehl, 2011:37). This can be seen on Strøget, where an integration of shops, bars, restaurants and housing provides opportunity for as many people as possible. Furthermore, its location means that it is within walking distance to other amenity typologies and landmarks.
Figure 24 – People using the street as a Figure 25 - Shops, restaurants, bars, cafes, tourism stands, and performance space apartments provide opportunity
Identity and Place
Arguably the introduction of pedestrianised streets such as Strøget, changed the way Danes live. "We are Danes, not Italians, they argued. It's too cold here and it rains too much. We like cosy meals at home, not outdoor cafes" (Turner, 2008). The initial rejection of a new public and outdoor way of life was soon dismissed due to the success of a new bustling city where profits had dramatically increased. The continuity of good quality materials and street furniture as suggested by Lynch has been adopted in order to increase pedestrian comfort, create new hubs of activity on the street adding to the new identity of the city.
Benches placed throughout the street help to create activity as demonstrated in a photo series of Strøget, by Gehl (2013:6), illustrating Jacobs 'sidewalk ballet' - "The ballet is rendered in brief scenes in which life unfolds like a dance in public space". "Benches with a view of the most trafficked pedestrian routes are used most, while benches oriented toward the planted areas of the squares are used less frequently" (Gehl, 2011:27). Materiality on the street helps contribute to an identity on 2 scales. Firstly, the street identity enriched through floor tiles in 5 colours by Bjørn Nørgaard. Secondly, the cities identity through the consistent use of a pastel, white or brown colour palette of the buildings. Landmarks on the street such as the Stork fountain also contribute to the street's identity. Furthermore, seasonal placemaking can be seen in the form of street decoration in the winter by using elaborate garlands spanning the buildings.
Figure 26 - Study of how benches enliven the street on Strøget
Figure 27 - Street tiles provide identity and Figure 28 - Winter garlands provide identitycharacter
It is evident that the literature review establishes 5 criteria the street requires to create a vitality and multimodal movement in the city. These criteria establish the importance of a network of streets to enable the city to function. Pedestrianised, connected streets encourage movement through the city, but it is mixed-use amenities and active edges which provide opportunity for engagement and interaction. Enclosure through street form and natural surveillance make people feel safe. These in combination create environments which make people stay or return to the city.
Overall, Strøget achieves the 5 criteria set out in the review. Its mix of amenities which are made evident through successful active frontages which adapt seasonally provide opportunity for a wide range of people creating vitality all year round. The pedestrianised street is linked to a wider city network providing multimodal movement across the city.
However, it doesn't meet all criteria to its potential. The adoption of a fully pedestrianised street has limitation and arguably would be more successful if it had some integrated with cars. Furthermore, there are no clear cycle lanes making it hard for cyclists to move through the street during peak times. To enhance the street identity further public art initiates, permeant or pop-up could engage more activity on the street. Despite this, Strøget pioneered a form of urban design which has changed the way Danes live. It has encouraged the adoption of people orientated city, providing people with opportunity through a public way of life.
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