Introduction to Architecture

ARCH 48 | Oksana Tabunshchykova

Module 10. Urbanism and Context

Urbanism and Context

This day Amily talked about contemporary cities. A lot contemporary cities are made from monolith of concrete. City is like a machine. We can see the lack of spirit, decoration and something special. So what is the human role in modern city? Are we parts of a big machine? Or is there still place for humanities?

Today architects see the next elements of city

  • Path
  • Edges
  • Districts
  • Nodes
  • Landmarks


Path this is not just a road. Path is a mixing of different points. It can be like staircase, a road around a lake or a path near metro. What is make path special from other roads? When we can see and recognize special unique identity behind the road. For instance, we reviewed The Lake Merit in Oakland. So I’ve never thought about this idea before. Look at the map and detect the contour of the lake and the road around it. But when we start thinking about transformation of this road, we understand beyond regular “path”. In one place it is a transportation line; in other is a walking track. How we see the city from different point of view and what it is means for city this Lake. People are working, have a rest and spend weekends there. So in our mined it is more than just a transportation path.

Or sometimes, we can find a lost staircase in the center of the city between greens, like secret path, that gives us feeling of mystery and connection with nature.

For path we recognize continuity, width, gradient and activity.


Every city has edges. Edges can merge or disconnect districts in city. Or it shows a border of a city. For example, a shore line in San Francisco is a water edge of the city. Or for example, freeway in Oakland divide city and sometimes can prevent human flow from one district to another.



Landmarks are not only sightseeing in a city. It can be also very important and well known buildings, bridges, structures, spaces for people who are living in the city.  Land marks help us to find special period of time in a city. It can be non purpose structure today. For instance, The Palace of Fine Art in San Francisco was constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in order to exhibit works of art presented there. Unfortunately, only a few surviving structures from the Exposition, it is the only one still situated on its original site. Today it is non purpose structure even Exploratorium was moved from here. But still this place reminds us that time and just very nice place where to spend weekend and enjoy surrounding. De Young museum can be recognized as contemporary landmarks. So we can see landmarks in terms of geometrical ideas, singularity, symbolic and other. Or Golden Gate Bridge is today more than just a structure that helps us reach another shore.


We recognize districts that share with us there point of view and lifestyle Soho in NY, Castro and Haight-Ashbury in SF.


Nodes this are transportation spots, point of gathering, and a part of connection rote:  Transbay terminal in SF, airports, Grand Central in NY. Nodes can be seen more than just a point of gathering they are part of social, political, and just part our everyday life.  IT can be also as a mix of landmarks and nodes like Ferry Terminal in SF.

Urban Acupuncture Marco Casagrande


Urban Acupuncture is an urban environmental methodology, the brainchild of Finnish architect and Professor Marco Casagrande who combines the theory of urban design with that of acupuncture. The main idea is to focus on local resources. Every citizen can take a part in city improvement. More over we don’t have to create new city, this theory allows livening places that naturally has to be renewed. This is a mix of buildings and human activities. Analyzing city maps we can look at the city like a “body”. It is a system of human flow, buildings, structures, and nature.

Allen, Korean American m

For instance Bug Dome by WEAK! in Shenzhen, China, an unofficial social club for illegal workers next to the Shenzhen City Hall.


People who contributed to the Urban Acupuncture Theory:

  • Gordon Matta-Clark
  • Jaime Lerner
  • Nicholas de Monchaux
  • Manuel de Sola-Morales

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This entry was posted on May 10, 2013 by .




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