Category Archives for: Environmental Design

Transportation Disrupts Sense of Space

30 April 2016

Transportation disrupts one’s sense of space. Just as cars do, especially in the suburbs, motorcycles do too, even in cities.

People go to destinations skipping the space between, not caring for it. In Taipei, for example, people might directly go to their favorite night market food stall via motorcycle, picking up the food in a plastic bag, nearly running pedestrians over. There is no thought about the space between, just as there is no thought between one’s location and destination in a car in the suburbs. This lack of sense of space is what ruins space. In other words, the lack of awareness of the space around one’s self, the material and the people, is what leads to the ruin of the material and the people within it.

To walk is to care for the space and people around. The space and the people within it aren’t skipped over. One can interact with both. One feels [as if one is] a part of both. The choice of walking through a slum or driving through it is a choice of care: does one care for the space of the slum or not?

Care, for me, is directly correlated with the distance between humans. If I am within the same space as humans, I care for them. It is that simple for me. Therefore, care depends on position in space, and the routines of everyday life that alter one’s position. I am aware this is an abnormal psychology, but I believe there is some truth in this.

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Noisy Transportation Destroys [Social] Atmosphere

30 April 2016

[to The Ideal Neighborhood?
– can grab a quote from this (not that) post later

[Written after biking to day markets for a day in Taipei, itself after bike commuting for several days.]

Noisy transportation ruins the [social] atmosphere around it. Wherever there is noisy transportation (petroleum-powered motorcycles and cars), the space around it, in which sound can permeate, is destroyed.

The body seeks comfortable spaces. A place where once can sit, talk, and drink some tea. [todo: needs more thinking?]

in Taipei

All of the streets are a terrible place to be. It is only there to pass by. One way to avoid some of the noise and get by is to take a bus. Another, the subway (but that’s another problem [todo: how subways ignore space]). Walking [todo: urban problems of walking], biking [todo: urban problems of biking], and motorcycling creates a thoughtless, uncomfortable experience that disrupts one’s sense of space.

When one is stuck on a noisy street, then an exclusive comfortable place is a likely, deterministic choice, such as a convenient store or cafe.

One way to ignore all of it is to wear earplugs or headphones. But to ignore space, similar to when one drives an enclosed vehicle, is a dangerous choice, as exemplified by how the suburbs have developed without care for the space between.

The most comfortable (public) outdoor areas are in dense neighborhoods, where buildings are built close to each other, split by narrow streets in which only a few vehicles can pass by at a time.

This is exemplified by some of the densest neighborhoods in Taipei [台北] (including New Taipei [新北]). The neighborhood around Tonghua street (通化街), the neighborhood west of Taida (太大), south / southeast Songshan (松山), perhaps Datong (大同), and perhaps Shuanghe (雙和).

The day and night markets provide further comfort by nearly blocking vehicular traffic.

The more people on the street, the more comfortable the space, and less likely that vehicles will try to break through.

So, it seems, the urban solution is to build narrow streets which attract people [to be on the street], resulting in filled narrow streets.

Neighborhoods in Taipei

Tonghua is the best neighborhood in Taipei because it has a by-foot-accessible day and night market that nearly blocks all vehicles. It seems the vehicles that do make it in are those that belong to the market workers. The rest of the neighborhood consists of the typical 3–5 story buildings, small neighborhood parks, small neighborhood temples, and so on. It’s streets seem to be quite irregular, making it even more difficult or undesirable to pass through. It effectively blocks vehicular traffic.

The southeastern part of Songshan District is also great. 3–5 story buildings in a simple grid for a larger area. A day market on the east. A night market further north. Traffic permeates better, especially on larger streets, at the cost of noise.

All good neighborhoods in Taipei have these characteristics[: 3–5 story buildings, narrow streets, filled narrow streets (markets), small neighborhood parks, small neighborhood temples, irregular streets].

Connecting the good neighborhoods

The problem is simply the transportation between the areas: the uncomfortableness of getting to each one. To get to Songshan, one must traverse through the commercial belt, similar to Midtown in Manhatten. It is a terrible experience, ruining the sense of home. Instead of feeling as if one is simply going to a friend’s dwelling in a neighborhood, it feels as if one has to traverse through some annoying alien world to reach it.

The goal then is to figure out how to provide comfortable routes between residential areas. How can one comfortably get to Songshan from Daan? Bike and pedestrian routes through smaller streets is one method.

Currently the best bike routes merely are aligned with the most commercial streets, the red and blue lines. They don’t appear to go anywhere useful in itself. They require [bike] tributaries. There must be signs at each tributary, as there are exit signs near ramps on a highway. The red and blue lines are bike highways without exits.

Without comfortable routes, one becomes isolated in one’s neighborhood, not wanting to leave it, which is good and bad: good to develop a home, bad being unable to traverse [between], diversify, and melt [with] others’ homes.

Design Patterns?

I’ve only got through the intro and first few chapters of A Pattern Language, but once I began adding emphasis to words, design patterns clearly began to emerge. Although it seems natural for it to occur, is it right to implement design patterns from my experience? These are not universal design patterns. Therefore, wouldn’t that destroy space, as it may conflict with another’s design patterns? Doesn’t environmental design always destroy the space by altering it?

When these patterns are taken together, the authors say, they begin to form a kind of language, each pattern forming a word or thought of a true language rather than being a prescriptive way to design or solve a problem. As the authors write on p xiii, “Each solution is stated in such a way that it gives the essential field of relationships needed to solve the problem, but in a very general and abstract way—so that you can solve the problem for yourself, in your own way, by adapting it to your preferences, and the local conditions at the place where you are making it.
Wikipedia, Christopher Alexander and colleagues, A Pattern Language

So it seems as long as the ideas are general, abstract, one can avoid specific design, and therefore avoid destruction of space from repetition. The set of ideas merely exist as a toolset to hypothetically solve problems that can be solved by altering urban material.

This thought digressed to My Blog Contains a Pattern Language.

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Creating Comfortable Places

28 March 2016

For survival, one organizes a space to serve survival needs: food, water, temperature and humidity control, toilet, etc. After survival has been met, the space becomes a comfortable space.

[The degree of comfort needed to survive is about the same, depending on differences in bodies. Any more comfort is a luxury…]

When the weather is uncomfortable, people seek comfortable spaces — Asian convenient stores, cafes, libraries, public spaces, friends’ dwellings, one’s own dwelling, etc. (note: only two are inclusive spaces).

When the weather is comfortable, then these comfortable spaces become unnecessary [my first thought, especially thinking of my comfortable travels in Asia as opposed to uncomfortable times in cold American cities]. They only seem useful in the habit of people meeting there, but that [habit] can be changed to meeting in a public outdoor spaces.

[These comfortable spaces are a huge market, from daycare to hip places to elderly care…]

People with jobs which require their body to move through uncomfortable weather are targeted (and screwed) by capitalist designers [my second thought, thinking of migrant workers in Taiwan consuming junk at railway stations at high costs]. Transport stations, roadside convenient stores, and roadside restaurants, are utilized as a means of survival, but taken advantage of with high costs.

Instead of construction workers being provided with a nice room with a water cooler, refreshments, a clean bathroom, air conditioner, such that would be found in an office, then it is up to the convenient store to provide these comforts. But the convenient store, unlike than office space, or a space in one’s own dwelling (remote and home workers), is filled with mass-produced, high-priced, often useless commodities. 

[There is quite a difference in the experience of a convenient store in Taiwan and one in America…]

[todo: continue?]

Hmmm, well that was the thought: that programmers at home can work and save comfortably because their bodies are at home, whereas the postal workers that bring them their commodities, must efficiently find ways to survive — pack lunch, pack coffee, find free hot or cold water, use air conditioned vehicle, etc. –, or suffer the cost, in addition to the fact that a programmer’s salary is higher than a postal worker’s.

This thought was probably initiated by CouchSurfing with a person who’s job is technical support, and who works comfortably in his well-stocked apartment in a high-rise in he middle of nowhere.  One can probably even see the from the window of his apartment, looking down at the people struggle against the weather.

[insert Veidt comic frame?]

[rename to to comfort as commodity? The capitalist design of space upon laborers?]

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