Contemplating the Street as a Place: An Approach to Restoration

Contemplating the Street as a Place: An Approach to Restoration

Nora Osama Ahmed (Housing and Building National Research Center (HBRC), Egypt)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3507-3.ch001


Creating a street where people have the opportunity to interact with each other and socialize rather than suffer loneliness used to be a concern for many scholars over the past decades when automobiles dominated the street scene. This chapter highlights considerable contributions to recognize the role that streets play in the life of a community. It draws out essential requirements for restoring the social role of the street as a place. International practices emerging across the world are outlined in this chapter to draw on the lessons learned from their fresh approaches in putting people first when considering street designs. The chapter concludes with design recommendations that act as the guiding principle to integrate street function and user needs in a way that motivates positive opportunities to create streets as places.
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The Street As A Place - A Historical Perspective

In a historical perspective, the city used to be a dense, traditional city, spatially well-deðned public space with urban social functions where everyone moved by foot these principles of the Middle Ages predominated until the ðrst half of the 20th century when cities faced severe health challenges and the spread of diseases as cholera. The modernism movement appeared and considered the medieval qualities as the problem proposing urban building solutions to help offset these challenges. This perspective was supported by a series of essays titled ‘Towards a New Architecture’ published by Le Corbusier in 1923 that advocated rational modern buildings with straight, large buildings, highways, and large green areas and functional cities. Although its good intentions to create better conditions for people and lessen the severity of diseases through abandoning overpopulated dense cities and building a modern one that permits light and the follow of air, modernism was criticized for concentrating on the form more than life; prioritizing buildings over surroundings. (Gehl & Svarre, 2013)

In the years between the two world wars, the principles of modernism gradually prevailed until it displayed its strength in the 1960s when the automobiles became an essential element of everyday life and the street scene. This modern movement was synchronized with the rise of functionalism, which brought social suffering upon many urban societies and created additional social distress. Consequently, a new counterattack began against the social inadequacy of the modernism planning ideology. It took place at the last meeting of the Congré d'Architecture Moderne (CIAM) in 1956, where Alison and Peter Smithson, among others, presented their doubt towards the city's sterility as envisioned by the modernists. The aim of the oppositionists was, according to Moughtin (2003), the rehabilitation of the street as a legitimate element of civic design.

Key Terms in this Chapter

One-Dimensional System of Classification: Linear thinking about the street and classifying its types by focusing only on the street either as a link or as a place function.

Place Function: The role of the street as an ‘exchange space’.

Locale (Place) User: Any user who makes uses of the features of the particular street area (locale) as a place whether to engage in different activities or use different land uses.

Through User: Any mode of movement, whether pedestrians, cyclists, car users, bus passengers, goods vehicle users, etc. who need to get from A to B as quickly and securely as possible.

Link Function: The role of the street as a ‘movement space’.

User Hierarchy: A people-oriented approach to organize users of the street into hierarchies according to their priority in the street.

Two-Dimensional System of Classification: Non-linear thinking about the street and classifying its types by bringing together its two main roles as a link and a place.

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