The Industrial Revolution created cities with rapidly growing populations containing new workforces awash with immigrants of young men often from rural areas who have travelled to these new cores of immense employment opportunities in search of a better and richer lifestyle.
They therefore lived as close to the industries as possible but their living conditions soon became confined and overcrowded producing high densities where disease was easily spread.
Soon, only those who could not afford to leave, remained and with little improvement and other factors such as the decline of industries and rising unemployment, these housing areas soon became slums.
The Post Industrial City has therefore tried to eliminate the horrors of what remained from the Industrial City as well as trying to accommodate the many changes of today’s society.
Such changes include:
· The increase of car ownership and the ability to travel further quicker.
· Emergency housing during the immediate post war period.
· The decay of the family unit with the increase of divorce rates and the need for more homes.
· The increase in capital and market forces.
· The longer life span and the increasing population.
· Changes in the tourist and leisure industries
The solving of the problems left from the Industrial City and the changes in society has formed a long running debate between the centrists and the decentrists.
One reaction to all these changes that the post industrial era brought was the desire of people to move away from the inner city and the slums.
The ‘Garden City’ concept by Ebenezer Howard led people to believe that they can have their detached or semi-detached house or bungalow, with their own front and rear gardens, and still be in reasonably close proximity to the city and all it had to offer.
The increase in car ownership has meant that ‘close proximity’ could be even further away from the city centre. Garden suburbs were therefore created.
There was and probably still is, a believe that it is a natural human instinct to belong to the country surrounded by your own territory.
Two influential people who shared this believe are Henry Ford and Frank Lloyd Wright.
The following is a quote about Henry Ford’s believe:
“According to reports in the press, Henry Ford has issued an order whereby all married workers and employees in their spare time are to cultivate vegetables in their own gardens to detailed instructions given by experts employed by him for this purpose, the idea being that by this means, they will be able to supply the greater part of their own requirements. The necessary garden land will be placed at their disposal. Henry Ford has said, ‘Self-help is the only means of combating the economic depression. Anyone refusing to cultivate his garden will be dismissed’.”
(Kenneth Frampton – Modern Architecture, a critical history)
For work masters such as Henry Ford, the garden was not to be a place for relaxing and leisure, it was to be used for environmental but mainly economic benefit.
In his first book on city planning, ‘The disappearing city’, published in 1932, Frank Lloyd Wright declared. “The city of the future will be everywhere and nowhere, and it will be a city greatly different from the ancient city or from any city of today, (1930’s) that we will probably fail to recognise it’s coming as a city at all.”
(Kenneth Frampton – Modern Architecture, a critical history)
He identified the new forces that will shape tomorrow’s city as follows:
· Electrification - this would increase the rate of production in the industry and therefore less need for large work forces.
· Communication – with radio, telephone and the telegraph, human communication can be achieved through greater distances reducing the need for physical human contact. This is even greater today with the emergence of the Internet and e-mail.
· Mechanical Mobilisation – the immeasurable widening of human travel due to the invention of the aeroplane and the automobile.
The ‘Concept City’ designed by Frank Lloyd Wright was named ‘Broadacre City’. It was a city that was sparse in plan where every man and his family would grow his own food on an acre of land, which had been reserved for him at his birth. Families would have to trade with their neighbours increasing social interaction, dependency and trust, creating a relaxed and friendly community.
However, for the economy to succeed in the Broadacre City, rural factories where a part time work force along with the ever increasing efficiency of machinery would keep up the essential rate of production.
Wright stated that ‘America will need no help to build a Broadacre City, it will build itself, haphazardly.’
This was merely an observation by Wright that the city was sprawling and if nothing halts it, there would be no definition between urban and rural but that it would be all inter-twined.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s observation was backed in 1955 by a quote from Ian Nairn in an ‘Architectural Review’ article.
‘The prophecy that if what is called development is allowed to multiply at the present rate, then by the end of the century, Britain will consist of isolated oases of preserved monuments in a desert of wire, concrete roads, cosy plots and bungalows. There will be no distinction between town and country’
(The Compact City – Jenks/Burton/Williams)
Before hand, during the Industrial City, urban living meant residing near to the industries. The introduction of the steam train meant that those who could afford to, moved away from the centres of production into more rural areas. New settlements grew up around train stations so that direct access was still available to the city.
However, the introduction of the automobile created freedom and the rate of migration to the edges of cities multiplied resulting in urban sprawl.
These two views from a skyscraper in Chicago show that the city has sprawled beyond the horizon. (Photographs by Steve)
Many of these areas included in the urban sprawl are now known as garden suburbs, they generally consist of front and back gardens, which is attractive for the family in producing a safe environment where the children can play. The garden suburbs are low density and usually appear from a bird’s eye view as organic and fragmented. Some suburban developments are designed as cul-de-sacs also nicknamed ‘lollipop developments’. These are becoming increasingly popular as they eliminate ‘through traffic’ and children are able to play on the street, outside their own homes, with less risk of being knocked down by a motorist. It is therefore not surprising that this sort of development is highly desirable, especially to families.
Being fragmented in character, suburbs contain many individual houses but often with very little variation. This lack of variation is today heightened by new off the shelf standardised conveyor belt houses, built by contractors whose only motivator is high profits.
Although it is fair to say that this is not always the case. For example, Oak Park in Chicago by Frank Lloyd Wright is a suburb development with good landscaping with outstanding architecture creating an aesthetic richness.
Suburban Housing: Three houses in Oak Park, Chicago designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. (Photographs by Steve)
In general, neighbourhoods and streets in the suburbs are similar in style and cost attracting occupants of similar income levels, which leads to a poor social mix.
The lack of variation visually and socially results in developments appearing dull but it is important to note that it is these styles of developments that are highly successful in the housing market. It is not surprising that market forces are developing more of these suburbs which are steadily eroding into the rural communities.
Row of identical houses – no variation, lacks visual excitement (Frey, H.W. - Designing the City)
Many of these garden suburbs when they were original built, contained small corner shops with basic amenities as this was all a low density community could support, producing the need to travel out with the community, usually by car in order to carry out activities such as shopping. This was another reason why a high proportion of people who moved to the suburbs owned a car as it was and still is a necessary requirement. In general, people living in these suburbs lead a high standard of life and are on the whole content with where they live.
Peripheral Estate, Castlemilk – Glasgow (Frey, H.W. - Designing the City)
The opposite however can apply to those living in the peripheral estates. Built as solutions to the slums of the inner city, many families were decanted to new estates on the city edge. The objective was to reduce overcrowding and clear the slums while supplying families with new, more modern housing containing better facilities such as bathrooms and kitchens, and in so doing, offer a better standard of living. These new estates, similar to garden suburbs were also of low density with few building types and only a few corner shops with basic amenities.
Unfortunately, these housing estates were isolated, being away from the main employment sources and away from many of the amenities such as shops. Many of the residents in the peripheral estates were not car owners making it difficult to travel to other places especially when the public transport systems was inadequate and often too expensive.
It is not surprising that unemployment is high in these estates and if anyone did secure employment with reasonable income the first thing they may consider doing is to move away.
With high unemployment in these estates, maintenance becomes low down in the priority list, and the visual environment decays. Along with high crime rates and other social problems, these peripheral estates have a poor image with the residents being stigmatised, castaways of society who have been relocated from the slums of the inner city to slums in the suburbs.
Still responding to the market forces of the motorcar, more and better roads were required as existing roads were improved through widening, levelling and straightening, as well as new roads being built. In San Francesco, the trams (trolley trains) which had provided a good public transport system was removed to make more lanes for the cars.
People became more dependent on the car because greater distances were needed to be covered, particularly as a result of garden suburbs. Amenities are no longer at hand, cars were needed to take children to school, go to work, go to shops or go to places of entertainment. Urban sprawl was at a rate were public transport could not keep up with the new demands. Uses became spread out and impossible to adequately link by public transport, resulting in the motorcar to zigzag across the city.
The new roads were filled and congested no sooner than they were built. To combat this, new roads were built and new motorways ploughed their way built up areas destroying the urban fabric and the communities who lived there.
Charing Cross in Glasgow is an example of an established urban area ripped apart by the introduction of a new motorway.
Charing Cross, Glasgow (Frey, H.W. - Designing the City)
More roads and highways are planned and more motorways are being widened even though more traffic is generated producing high levels of congestion and therefore pollution.
There are those who milk the high ownership of cars by building out of town developments such as retail, business, industry and leisure. The city centre was traditionally the most accessible place of the city as it was well linked by public transport and all the main roads lead to it, whereas these new ‘out of town’ developments were located in the suburbs where the people now lived.
The land rates for such developments were much less than they would be in the city centre and so cheap sheds were built surrounded by ample car parking.
Usually located next to major junctions of ring roads or motorways, they were not just easily located by staff and customers in their cars but also by delivery trucks who no longer had tackle the tight congested streets of a busy city centre.
Out of Town retail with ample car parking. Clydebank (Frey, H.W. - Designing the City)
We were now seeing an urban sprawl of uses which at one time, were all contained within the city centre.
A way of life was changing, the street of small shops were being replaced by the supermarket, the city centre was losing out in the competition with the out of town developments and mixed use areas decaying and converting into mono-use areas.
The result is a disintegration of the city centre as it losses out on activity and a lack of activity leads to decline in investment resulting in areas to become mono-use. For example, a mono-use business district which is only activated for part of a day by similar social people and at the other times of the day, the area is nothing more than dead and unsafe.
The relocation of many uses away from the city centre has transformed the city from one with the one central core to one containing many nuclei which all linked by a network of roads. The city centre is no longer as important as it was.
Cars, cars, cars. The city is being shaped by the automobile. (Richard Rodgers – Cities for a small planet)
Cars are therefore one of the major factors that is shaping the Post Industrial City. Take Las Vegas for example, totally designed around the motorcar, all the buildings are surrounded by car parking with bright flashing signs fronting unto the road as a shop window principle.
The Centrists had a critical view of suburban living.
“Suburbia – where the developer bulldozes down the trees, then names the streets after them”
Many who are interested in the protection of the environment are concerned about urban sprawl. The loss of countryside and rural activities to urban uses and the impact of the car producing pollution have given a strong opinion that the city sprawl needs to be reversed.
Developing the city centre is not a new idea but it has pushed itself more to the surface in recent years especially in the market of the tourist industry.
Early attempts to clear the slums were included in the Comprehensive Development Areas (CDA’s). Areas of the inner city containing housing seen as sub-standard were demolished and replaced by new housing but many of these new inner city districts, like the peripheral estates, were cheaply built, poorly landscaped and managed. Overtime, some of these monotonous areas appeared depressing, losing appeal, which meant that only low-income families lived in them.
The remainder of a CDA development in Govan, Glasgow (Photograph by Steve)
There were also radical ideas in reaction to the slums left over from the industrial city and none more radical than Le Corbusier’s. He believed that the post industrial city had different needs from its predecessor and so the old should be replaced with new.
The ‘Modernist Movement’ for which Le Corbusier was at the forefront believed that the traditional city has no place in today’s society and should be replaced by parks with free standing buildings. This free space could even be used for extra roads to serve the growing number of car owners.
Le Corbusier and Jeaneret, Plan proposal for Paris, 1925 (Kenneth Frampton – Modern Architecture, a critical history)
Glasgow’s version of High Rise Living. (Photograph by Steve)
La Defense, Paris (Frey, H.W. - Designing the City)
An example of a modernist movement approach in Glasgow is the Gorbals by Basil Spence. Here, all the tenements were demolished and replaced by high rise blocks. Much of the new accommodation in the Gorbals was poorly designed and inhabitable, later to be demolished just like the tenements before them.
The open space or parks in which these free standing buildings stood, were poorly landscaped, appearing as neither public or private creating confusion. This confusion leads to the parks not being used to their full potential and becoming lost space appearing insecure, unsafe and dangerous.
This style of high rise living was an alien environment enforced upon people of low income. There was poor interaction between the habitants in these high rise flats as compared to the closer knit communities they had come from.
It is also more difficult to raise a family in the high rise flats as supervision is harder when you live 20 floors up. Rebellious teenagers are left free to vandalise, lowering the appeal and image of the area.
From the opposite side to the modernist movement, there is now an approach to renovate the city centre. Holding unto its past and rescuing old buildings by converting them into new uses necessary in creating mixed use.
The ‘Merchant City’ in Glasgow has been an area of empty warehouses lying derelict for many years being converted into residential and retail uses.
The aim is to reverse the urban sprawl by bringing quality housing back into the city centre where mixed use can create a vibrant inner city.
Another approach in reducing the city sprawl is the provision of ‘out of town’ style retail malls actually in the city itself.
Buchanan Galleries in Glasgow is a recent example of this sort of approach. Situated in the centre of the city, it contains indoor shopping malls adjacent to a multi-floor car parking. It also benefits from being directly next to a bus, train and underground station.
Inner city Shopping Centre Model of Buchanan Galleries, Glasgow (Frey, H.W. - Designing the City)
The problem with such developments is that they are often fairly large, monotonous and reduce the permeability of the street pattern. Being inward looking, they often have poor interaction with the street (except where the main entrance meets it) reducing the level of activity, especially where the service zones front unto public streets.
While most of the approaches and views mentioned above might be classified as planned, an approach, which mainly rose during the 1980’s, may be classified as anything but planned. The laissez-faire attitude was merely interested in economic benefit. The city began to be shaped by market forces and there was a feeling that anything goes as long as it makes money. Planning of this nature had no long term plans nor did it have any consideration for the city at large.
Often with no city strategy, many of these developments created mono-use areas that are inactive for long periods of the day.
In Conclusion, I would describe the post industrial city as a city being stretched in different directions by opposing forces. These forces may be different in nature but they all have one thing in common and that is the objective of improving the standard of living compared to the horrors of the slums left over from the industrial age.
Some approaches have failed miserably while others have succeeded in improving living conditions but failed in other aspects.
It is important to note that some of these approaches have at different times lead the debate of whether a city should be central or not. Even a compromise between the Centrists and Decentrists has become a strong argument for the redesigning of the city to suit our new needs.
Whatever the answer is, if there is one, the city needs to become more flexible. Today’s needs are different from yesterday’s and will most likely be different to tomorrows. It is not possible to demolish and rebuilt every time our needs change, therefore a flexible city structure needs to be put in place that can withstand any change the society throws at it.
Modern Architecture, a critical history – Frampton, Kenneth
The Compact City – Jenks/Burton/Williams
Designing the City – Frey, H.W.
Cities of Tomorrow – Hall, P.
Cities for a Small Planet – Rodgers, Richard