Category: Civic Life

Social and Civic Life in the Bucharest Microrayons: Drumul Taberei

While many view the mikrorayons of communist Eastern Europe as simply an effort to accommodate massive, displaced populations after World War II into well-planned, easily accessible neighborhoods, the mikrorayons of Bucharest were created with an effort at creating a collective living experience in mind. The pursuit of efficiency and industrialization in post-war Romania in creating housing was always coupled concerns for experience and expression. The example given here, Drumul Taberei, is no exception. Built from the 1950s to the 1970s, this neighborhood was designed with the collective experience in mind. The sheer amount of thought that went into providing residents with not only the bare necessities of resources, but creating the ‘realist’ experience of collective housing, go to show that the planning process had social and civic life in mind. This ‘realist’ experience included spatial frameworks that sought to intensify social interaction. These frameworks existed from the level of the houses (apartment style) to the neighborhood, which was designed to be cohesive, easily accessible, and aesthetically pleasing.

Sources: Maxim, Juliana(2009) ‘Mass housing and collective experience: on the notion of microraion in Romania in the 1950s and 1960s’, The Journal of Architecture, 14: 1, 7 — 26

Naples, Long Beach, California

Naples, a neighborhood located within the city of Long Beach, was constructed for the purpose of selling houses near the beach, and investors were convinced by the developers, when they told their vision of an Italian style resort village, with canals and gondola rides, which actually exist today. Before construction began on the marsh that Naples used to be, people would buy lots for 100 or 1,000 dollars, that would now sell for 500,000 to 8 million dollars. In the center of the island in the middle of Naples is La Bella Fontana Park. Meaning “The Beautiful Fountain Park” the name of this area refers to the three-tiered fountain that sits right in the middle of the park. For many of those who live on Naples, the park acts as a great meeting place, as it is a similar distance from all other locations in Naples. With Long Beach being one of America’s most walkable cities, Naples serves as an extension of this, with the center island being incredibly pleasant to get around by walking. Because of SoCal’s beautiful weather year-round, it is important for people to be able to get around Naples by walking, so that they can enjoy it to the fullest. With people being able to walk around the city more comfortably, it means that more people will be out of their houses at any given day of the year, helping the social life of Naples thrive year-round In addition, by making the central island such a focal point of the city socially, it helps to bring everyone together into a smaller area, instead of having people spread out across the entire neighborhood.

Social and Civic Life in the Bucharest Microrayons: Drumul Taberei

While many view the mikrorayons of communist Eastern Europe as simply an effort to accommodate massive, displaced populations after World War II into well-planned, easily accessible neighborhoods, the mikrorayons of Bucharest were created with an effort at creating a collective living experience in mind. The pursuit of efficiency and industrialization in post-war Romania in creating housing was always coupled concerns for experience and expression. The example given here, Drumul Taberei, is no exception. Built from the 1950s to the 1970s, this neighborhood was designed with the collective experience in mind. The sheer amount of thought that went into providing residents with not only the bare necessities of resources, but creating the ‘realist’ experience of collective housing, go to show that the planning process had social and civic life in mind. This ‘realist’ experience included spatial frameworks that sought to intensify social interaction. These frameworks existed from the level of the houses (apartment style) to the neighborhood, which was designed to be cohesive, easily accessible, and aesthetically pleasing.

Sources: Maxim, Juliana(2009) ‘Mass housing and collective experience: on the notion of microraion in Romania in the 1950s and 1960s’, The Journal of Architecture, 14: 1, 7 — 26

Seoul — Seoullo & Cheonggyecheon

Seoul in the last few decades have placed great emphasis on public space planning and walkability of the city. This is embodied in park projects around the Han River that penetrates through the city, but also throughout different neighborhoods of the city. The examples presented are Seoullo (2017) and Cheonggyecheon (2005), fairly recent projects that have transformed old vehicular highways into public spaces. They both penetrate some of the most congested neighborhoods in Seoul and effectively makes the area vehicle- and walking-friendly. Seoullo is an elevated linear park, approximately 1km long, stretching along Seoul station––the largest train/subway station in the city. This area was once an elevated overpass that was built after the Korean war, but closed due to safety hazards. Cheonggyecheon was a natural stream that got covered for transportation infrastructure in the late-1960s. In 2003, the elevated highway was demolished and the stream restored with public recreation space complementing it. The park is approximately 11km long and is located in the heart of Seoul’s downtown district.

Bogalusa, LA: The “Magic City”

One of several planned “company towns” in the US, Bogalusa is an example of a city planned with a specific type of social life in mind. The history of company towns in the US is relatively simple; owners of different organizations and businesses wanted a place where their employees would be able to live and work in the same general area. While there are some more complicated lines of labor disputes, this creates an interesting social environment.
Bogalusa, built by the Great Southern Lumber Company in 1902, was designed by Rathbone DeBuys as a place for the employees of this rural labor operation. It took only one year for the city to be built from the ground up. It had several hotels, a YMCA, churches, and houses for the employees and their supervisors.
While there is nothing especially significant about the story of Bogalusa, it serves as an example of how these company towns worked to alter the social and civic lives of their employees at a very basic level – by controlling where they lived, not just where they worked.

Miami Beach, Florida

When it comes to civic life, Miami Beach is designed to be a social place 24/7, yet there is an element of privacy and exclusivity that plays an important role in the perception of Miami Beach as a high-end place to party and live. With regard to social connection, Miami Beach is able to maximize social interaction during the day through its continuous coastline of public beaches, relatively walkable sidewalks and boardwalk, in addition to numerous parks and commercial boulevard, such as Lincoln Road and Collins Ave. At night, the walkable infrastructure combined with a notable police presence, enables Miami Beach to still be a social place, as visitors and S. Florida residents alike, flock to clubs to party and have fun. While Miami Beach manages to function as a social place through its use of walkable infrastructure and public commons, it is important to note that the pervasive element of exclusivity enforces a sense of insularity and protection. This is not only evident by the number of upscale hotels that charge relatively high rates and cover charges for wealthy tourists, but also in the many islands that isolate the wealthy from the rest of the city. Examples of these islands include Palm Island, Hibiscus Island, Star Island, the Venetian Islands, and most notably, Fisher Island (which is geographically isolated).

Copenhagen: Cycle to civic life

The “Five-Finger Plan” was developed in 1947 by Steen Eiler Rasmussen and Christian Erhard Bredsdorff in collaboration with the Urban Planning Laboratory. The plan focuses on Green spaces and the transportation system with metropolitan train lines. These transportation systems spread in the form of five fingers from the Palm which is Copenhagen’s City Center, hence the title “five finger plan”. One of the most defining features of Copenhagen are the bike lanes and green areas. Nearly 40% of people ride bicycles daily, and the numbers are expected to rise. In addition, it is a walkable city with shopping areas which are pedestrian-accessible. There are playgrounds for children and gathering places. The city has also found ways to maximize its spaces by taking down the fences and designing areas to support a wide variety of activities. An example: a large courtyard next to a marketplace that serves as both a schoolyard playground and common space with a basketball court. During lunch, multiple worlds collide in one cohesive space. And in terms of policy, the city is redesigning all of its schoolyards to be fenceless so they are open and welcoming to the community. The parks are unique, playful, and a reflection of the surrounding neighborhood.

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