Polytechnic University of Valencia Congress, 24th ISUF 2017 - City and Territory in the Globalization Age

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The essential purpose of any Urban Project is to define Public Space
Jorge Iribarne

Last modified: 14-05-2018


In that aspect, buildings role, no matter their architectural qualities, is to shape that void and give it character. If one asks people about their remembrances of cities they have visited, they usually mention places and the activities that took place there. Architecture, great or bad is the referente of Architects. Only some monuments –Eiffel Tower or Sidney´s Opera- which act as the city´s image are worth recalling.

The failure of CIAM´s urbanism was not its lack of  quality, even vition, as some of Le Corbusier designs clearly demostrate, but its disregard of public space, merely a left over  spread between isolated building blocks and  highways.

A good instrument to understand this fact are the Figure/ Ground  plans, in which the basic shape of buildings and voids are drawn in black and white.

In the tradicional city renders, the public spaces have a clear definition, a presence of its own. In any CIAM project –mostly-  or construction, the public realm is the shapless space left over  by buildings, with no hint about use or limits. A clear demonstration is  the no-space around the Philarmonic, the National Library and the Art Gallery in Berlin.

This knowlege is sufficiently incorporated into the practice of most Western Designers, but two perverse conditions are part of the everyday´s life of entire populations in the World:

  1. In poor Countries there is an urgent need to incorporate slums to the city structure, culture and services.
  2. In Asian Cities, mainly in China, inmense areas are demolished overnight and its tradicional fabric replaced by endless rows of anonymous high rise blocks amid a maze of transport elevated structures, with no place left for pedestrians.

An old text advices not to let the urgent erase the important. In today´culture both conditions are unfortunately simultaneous.

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