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Thread: Intimate Anonymity: breaking the code of the urban genome

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    Intimate Anonymity: breaking the code of the urban genome

    The discipline of Urban Planning or design has been in an ongoing state of crisis since the technological utopias of the Ville Contemporeine of Le-Corbusier and Broadacre City of Frank Lloyd Wright. 20th C. Planners have failed to produce meaningfull urban spaces comperable to achievements made untill and including the 19th C.

    The realisation of the crisis we are in was brought up ellocuently by Jane Jacobs in her extremely important book "The Death and Life of the Great American Cities". This book made planners look at what they were doing criticly and realize the ills of Zoning when compared to the past practice of mixed uses.

    But since this realization there was little progress. We can still see fenomenons like urban sprall which are basically a continuation of residential suberbia, traffic congestion, "High Tech. Parks" etc.

    It is my belief that while Jacobs pointed to the sickness, she failed to introduce the remedy. The reason is that her criticism was a result of a trial and error process. Realising the ills of the modern city, she looked to the past and found mixed uses.

    I believe that in order to design a city one must define it. I'v given the issue a great deal of thought over the last few years. I did not find, among many attempts made, a definition that could serve as a tool for guiding the planning of new cities or analize existing ones.

    I believe that the city is a natural habitat of humans i the same way the beehive is for the bees.

    The city is the most efficient tool for humans' survival. It is so because it supplies the individual an almost inexhausible reservoir of contacts for either social or buisness purposes.

    My definition of the city is: THE CITY IS A HUMAN HABITAT THAT ALLOWS PEOPLE TO FORM RELATION WITH OTHERS AT VARRIED LEVELS OF INTIMACY WHILE REMAINING ENTIRELY ANONYMOUS.

    This definition is at the core of the concept I called "Intimate Anonymity".

    I often discuss this theory with proffesionals who get quite irritated by the juxtaposition of these two seemingly contradictory terms, Intimacy and Anonymity. But on closer look things seem to brighten up. Following my definition one can say that in a good city, a person leaving a private space into the public space will see people around him and know nothing about them. In a bad city he will know everything about them all and therefore it will not be a city, it is avillage.

    The concept of "Intimate Anonymity" has helped me form a set of rules for the city. I will quote a few:

    1. Cities are made of public spaces. Buildings are not the concern of the city planner but for the fact that their primary role is to define the public space.

    2. The "floor" of an urban space must be on ground level. Never sink or raise the level from that were people move on naturally.

    3. Every urban space must allow the passage of people through randomly. It should not be designed as a target.

    4. Avoid dead end streets.

    5. The size of an urban space must relate to the nomber of people expected to pass through it randomly. When the nomber is large, design a square. when it is smaal design an alley. In between design a street.

    6. When many people are expected to pass randomly, allocate space on ground floor of buildings for a variety of uses to occupy randomly.

    7. When fewer people are expected, design dwellings with as many entrances facing the street.

    8. Avoid the separation of traffic from pedestrians. In every car there is a pedestrian. the best pedestrian street was a mixed traffic street before.

    9. Mixed uses are essensial. segregate only health hazards.

    10. There is a minimum density under which "Intimate Anonymity can not be reached, there is no maximum.

    I could go on but this is becoming too long for now. I am interested in as many comments, criticism, encouragement etc.

    Thanks for your reaction

    Hillel Scvhocken

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    Cyburbian Emeritus Perry Norton's avatar
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    "Intimate Anonymity" - Breaking the Code o

    I like the core of your definition, "Intimate Anonymity", but I'm struggling with what follows. There is, to be sure, a massive amount of indecision in today's city-building, but I can't tell what side the profession is on. Could you elaborate a bit?

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    "Intimate Anonymity" - Breaking the Code o

    Hi Perry,

    In my view planners are like a blind cowboy facing his enemy in the heat of the day in main street shooting in all directions in the hope that his opponent will graciously position himself in front of their revolver.

    The history of 20th C. planning is full of experiments based on Utopias (mostly tecnological) that have nothing to do with the understanding of human nature and human needs that are the basis for the understanding of the city. Unfortunately, but logicly, all those experiments failed.

    I believe that my theory of "Intimate Anonymity" which is based on the definition of the city, as in my previous message, can help us revert to a new path promising better results.

    Regards,

    Hillel

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    "Intimate Anonymity" - Breaking the Code o

    Wow! You've given us a lot to think about and I will. A few comments just to get the juices flowing.
    Thanks for the encouragement.

    Concerning the "natural habitat", I certainly do not maintain that life in a village is not natural. The point I'm trying to make has two aspects. 1. The village is seen by most people as "natural" while the city is concieved "artificial". I'm trying to refute this common mistake. 2. I believe that just as there exist underdeveloped and developed types of living things, the city is the highest form of human habitat. the fact that the urban population of the world grows at a faster rate of acceleration then the growth of the worlds population clearly points out to this effect.

    Obviously, the development of humanity from hunters and collectors to storers and producers is a primary catalyst of the process of urbanization.

    While it is true that the city provides protection and commerce, I maintain that it's raison detre is the fact that it is the most efficient tool for survival.

    It follows that for those whose survival is secured the city is less important. they could live alone on the top of a hill, in the woods.

    With relation to your point about virtual community I would comment that you are prone to fall in the trap of some of our most illustrious planning predesessors such as Le-Corbuier and Frank Lloyd Wright who were basicly tecnological utopians blind to human nature. While the web is indeed a wonderful tool allowing us to carry out this discussion, It will never allow us to make love through a telephone line. I suspect it will never be able to feed us through the same line. etc.

    The technological advences made by humanity are tools for suplying survival to a fast growing world population. They are not muchmore. In fact I believe that humanity has not changed much, appart from what I considder minot technological advences, from the humanity of antiquity.

    People were dragged to the suberbs. They were dragged there by the modern religion of technology and its priests L.C. and F.L.W mentioned above and a few utopist like them.

    Thank you for your comments. They mean a great deal to me. I hope we will be able to drag more participants to this exchange.

    Hillel Schocken

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    Cyburbian Emeritus Perry Norton's avatar
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    "Intimate Anonymity" - Breaking the Code o

    I don't think GROWTH means that it is toward the highest form of human habitat; and I don't think the urban population of the world is growing faster than the worlds population. But this depends on what is meant by "highest form of human habitat" and how much of the current development is "urban". I tend to think, for example, that Urban and Rural are outmoded terms, and the "form" of habitat isn't High or Low but is relative to the living style of the inhabitants, forced or chosen.

    And thanks for setting my brain to work.

    Perry

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    "Intimate Anonymity" - Breaking the Code o

    Hi Perry,

    This is becoming an interesting exchange. I might have been misunderstood and I would like to clarify. I wrote that the rate of acceleration of urbanization is higher then the rate of acceleration of the growth of the world's population. The fenomenon of Megacities is a result of this fact.

    I also didn't mean any value judgement with relation to the city being the most developed kind of habitat. I believe the city is the most developed because, so far, people around the world are simply voting with their feet by flocking into cities from rural forms of living. they do that because as I understand it, the city is, for them, the most efficient tool for survival.

    It is true that many people leave the cities into semi rural settlements such as the suburbs. but these are mostly people who are relatively well of and don't ned to take care of survival.

    It is a well studied fact that cities attract either poor people or fairly young people who are set or about to make it.

    I hope these points made my case clearer.

    All the best,

    Hillel Schocken

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    Cyburbian Emeritus Perry Norton's avatar
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    "Intimate Anonymity" - Breaking the Code o

    The text is clearer....thank you. Now we need to approach the City-Suburb Urban-Rural thing. Where does one begin and the other leave off? Or doesn't it make that much difference?

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    Cyburbian Earl Finkler's avatar
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    "Intimate Anonymity" - Breaking the Code o

    In my view planners are like a blind cowboy facing his enemy in the heat of the day in main street shooting in all directions in the hope that his opponent will graciously position himself in front of their revolver.

    The history of 20th C. planning is full of experiments based on Utopias (mostly tecnological) that have nothing to do with the understanding of human nature and human needs that are the basis for the understanding of the city. Unfortunately, but logicly, all those experiments failed.

    I believe that my theory of "Intimate Anonymity" which is based on the definition of the city, as in my previous message, can help us revert to a new path promising better results.
    A very interesting discussion between the two of you. I'd like to put in my two cents as a long-term resident of Barrow, Alaska, a town of 5,000 people ....a village....where there is very little anonymity. But people help each other and will pitch in to help a person carry out a dream. In my case, my wife Chris and I organize monthly 3 or 4-mile fun runs in all kinds of weather. And the police have helped check the road for traffic and also for polar bears. A local pizza parlor serves as the warm start and finish. And at one point merchants freely donated prizes. Now we just do it for fun.

    The same goes for my interest in astronomy. We worked to gether and put up a scale model of the solar system on the stret system. I could go on
    Once and a while, my wife Chris and I might like a little more anonymity, but 99 percent of the time we like it here just fine. I don't know how a place like Barrow could be repeated in other areas, but I wish it could be. As a planner, I think that our big cities are lacking a lot. For one thing, they are often lacking the caring and concern that one finds in a village.

    Earl Finkler

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    "Intimate Anonymity" - Breaking the Code o

    This is an interesting issue. I think the suburb reflects the wish of people who are suffering the high density of city living. without the private car and train such a move from city to suburb would have not become possible. I believe the chief difference between living in a suburb and the rural village is the source of income. Suburbians essencialy make their living on opportunities supplied by the city. Villagers make their living mostly off the fruit of the land around them.

    So I think it can be said that suburbians are people who wish to enjoy both worlds. City opportunities and rural environment of the village. This is what is termed "cuality living". At the end of the 20th C. there is an important element that threatens this quality, namely, traffic congestion. People are forced to waste longer periods of time on traffic jams breathing faul exhust air. I believe that this will diminish the attraction of suburbia for many people. Or, it will force us to come up with transportation alternatives that will sharply reduce the use of the private car, replacing it with a rich veriety of alternatives.

    This is what I managed to draw off my head in response to your last message. I look forward for your comments.

    By the way and on a personal note, I feel a bit strange carying this correspondense with, obviously, bright people knowing very little about them. I guess this is because I'm not yet acoustomed to the virtual world. However, I would be glad to know, even a little, of you. A few details abot myself seem necessary at this point. I'm an architect running a private practice since 1978. I'm 53. My practice was involved in a large veriety of projects including housing (private and public), Industrial, museums, theatre, university labs, landscaping, office interiors, shops and town planning. In paralel with my practice I held teaching jobs in the three main schools of architecture in the country and for the last six years I'm teaching as a senior lecturer at the school of architecture at the Tel Aviv university.

    Best regards,

    Hillel

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    "Intimate Anonymity" - Breaking the Code o

    Wellcome, Earl, and thank you for your contribution. It seems You and Chris live closest to heaven then most of us, and I'm by no means cynical.

    I guess your fortunate way of living tells us something of the kind of people living in Barrow, Alaska. First, one would assume that most are fairly secure ecconomically. Otherwise they would not have been able to give up the ecconomical opportunities that exist in the city.

    With relation to your point about anonymity I would say the following. Familiarity, the opposite of anonymity, of the kind you are experiencing could be sometimes unpleasent. A lot of people who live in the Israeli Kibbutz, acommunal rural society special to Israel and much smaller then Barrow are experiencing lack of privacy. Last night's quarre of a couple is this morning's conversation piece breakfast in the communal dinning room. Over familiarity can be oppresive. The Anonymity which I believe to be an essencial ingredient of the city allows one to form his personal Barrow within it, avoiding it's oppresive aspects. Obviously, it would take longer to form this personal community but it is happenning in cities and even big ones.

    I don't wish to be misunderstood as passing a judgement over one type of living on another. I believe people should be able to freely chose what's best for them. The problem is that over the last century we lost the understanding of what the city is and created something that instead of fostering what I call "Intimate Anonymity", it fosters alienation. My purpose is to reverse tha trend by putting the concept of the city in the framework of a theory that is essencialy humanistic, based on the understanding of the human enimal and it's motivations.

    Thanks again,


    Hillel Schocken

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    City/Suburban: Urban/Rural?

    Good question, Perry. And an interesting response, Hillel.

    I think we have shaped the suburbs to mimic the cities we left behind. We got tired of commuting so we moved our jobs into office parks. We didn't want to shop downtown so we built shopping malls. Why? Because, as Hillel says we wanted the best of both worlds.

    Do the definitions matter, Perry? I'm not sure. I think one of the reasons we moved out of the cities and one of the things we missed about village life (even if that was only a perception from the history books) was the ability to have an impact on our surroundings. A little control if you will. One vote out of 5000 in a village as opposed to one out of 8 million in the city. This may still be true except that I sense such an alienation and cynicism about political life that I'm not sure anyone cares anymore. And those that do, may still feel impotent in the suburban village.

    To go back a bit in this conversation, I think the value of the city must be viewed in the context of the society in which it exists. It may very well be the most efficient form of settlement for survival in an industrializing economy. It may not be in a post industrial society.

    However, being fond of first pricniples, I must ask what you mean by the word efficient? My own definition would be based on minimizing the use of raw materials and the impact on the environment, which I agree are probably more efficiently used in the City. And as the urban/suburban/rural lines blur, I agree that traffic congestion has diminished the quality of life we moved out here to enjoy. We may not be commuting into the central city but to another part of the suburbs an hour away.

    With respect to Wright and Corbusier I am hopeful that in my children's lifetime, technological solutions as well as better job/housing balance in planning suburban communities will mitigate this issue.

    A discussion of the relative efficiency of the suburbs will have to wait for the moment.

    Cheers

    John

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    Cyburbian Emeritus Perry Norton's avatar
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    "Intimate Anonymity" - Breaking the Code o

    Just a quickie: read the message entitled "For Instance" which is a response to the second part of Hillel's message. It struck me as a good idea. I should get back to the main part of the message bientout.

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    Cyburbian Earl Finkler's avatar
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    "Intimate Anonymity" - Breaking the Code o

    Hi Hillel

    I think I see where you are heading, and I understand that there can be those who would definitely prefer to live in a humane city and be able to create a little Barrow in it.

    But I wanted to add one more advantage to Barrow. We have people who are a little slow, or suffer some moderate disabilities, but in a place like Barrow, everyone knows them and they can get around town and live a pretty good life.
    I remember one elder in his 80s whom everyone respected and liked.

    Unfortunately, his driving was not the best. He would go very slow at times in his pick up truck, or even wander out of his lane. But we knew him and waved to him and gave him some space. Now that would not, could not, happen in a big city. It is neat to see and experience here.

    I enjoy the discussion. thanks for raising the idea.

    Earl Finkler

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    "Intimate Anonymity" - Breaking the Code o

    Thanks Perry.
    How about the bientot?
    Hillel

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    "Intimate Anonymity" - Breaking the Code o

    Hi Earl,

    Thanks for your response. You didn't relate to the following paragraph in my previous message. I would be interested if my assumption was right and also if you could tell us something about the economical situation of Barrow residents in general.

    Thanks,

    Hillel

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    Cyburbian Earl Finkler's avatar
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    Thanks. In general, Barrow residents are fairly well off, thanks to a property tax that the North Slope Borough (kind fo a super county) levies on the oil industry at Prudhoe Bay, and then spends for services and capital improvments.
    But there is a rangeof incomes ---and some elders who do not have much cash income. the same for people who depend more on subsistence hunting and fishing. And even though salaries are relatively high, so is the cost of living.
    Maybe that is one of the keys up here ---people do have options on how much they want to participate in the cash economy. Also, as I said earlier, there is a culture of sharing in Barrow, and working together.
    Hope that helps.
    Earl

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    "Intimate Anonymity"

    Following is a paper presented at a recent world congress of planning schools held last july in Canghai, Chaina.

    Comments will be wellcomed.


    “Intimate Anonymity”
    Or
    Breaking the Code of the Urban Genome
    Hillel Schocken



    The beginning of the 21st Century seems to be a fitting opportunity to view the achievements of the last Century in the field of Urban Planning and Design.

    It can be said of the 20th Century that it was the scene of the fastest technological advance humanity has ever achieved. We have witnessed the introduction of electricity as the chief means to channel and use energy. The first attempts to lift off the ground led to landing on the moon and exploring the planets. The primitive telephone has developed into the Cellular Phone and the calculating machine and typewriter into the powerful computer.

    The effect of the Technological Revolution on all fields of human existence was immense. Modern medicine prolongs our life expectancy leading to the accelerated growth of world population. Modern agriculture provides nutrition to this fast growing population. Modern Communication turned the planet into a “Global Village”.

    While we can justly view these developments as positive, one can not escape their negative aspects. While we all wish to live longer we can not escape questioning the quality of life we will enjoy when we are old. The use of energy by a fast growing population, as one of many examples, threatens the life supporting system of the planet.

    Technology has become the new religion of the 20th Century. Modern City planning was strongly influenced by technological utopias. Electric power plants were designed as temples. The Russian Constructivists added Radio aerials on the roof of almost every building. The car, train and airplane appear in both Frank Lloyd Wright’s drawings of Broadacre City and LeCorbusier’s images of the Ville Radieuse and the Ville Contemporaine. The fascination with technology went further to the 70’s with the utopia of Archigram and it still goes on with it’s latest disguise – The Virtual City.

    Another phenomenon had a decisive effect on the 20th Century City, namely, the proliferation of democracy as the most common system of government. It is beyond the scope of this paper to deal with the effect on the city of democracy and the emphasis it puts on human rights and the freedom of the individual. It can be said that this is a field that justifies further research.

    In the mid 60’s it became apparent that all was not well with the Modern City, the product of technological utopias. The book that marked the beginnings of disillusionment for good and many was Jane Jacobs’ “The Death And Life of The Great American Cities”. With penetrating insight, Jacobs compared the modern city with cities of the past and brought back into currency issues like context, mixed uses, urban space, street and human activity. The resulting effect of this criticism became the fertile ground for Post-Modern architecture, contextualism and “New Urbanism” to develop on.

    The aim of this paper is to present “Intimate Anonymity”, a theoretical foundation to critical reactions to the modern city, such as those of Ms. Jacobs, as they were largely founded on a trial and error method. It is further hoped that this theoretical analysis could form a practical tool that will pave the way for each generation and culture to create their own city without reverting anachronistically to precedents of the past based on that same trial and error method.

    At the core of this theory lays the claim that the city is as natural to the “Human Animal” as the beehive is to the bees. One is not required to form a utopia in order to understand why bees produce these very special structures in which to produce honey. One must simply study the nature of bees in order to accept the beehive as the direct result of this nature. In much the same way, we must search into the nature of humanity for the genetic code of the city.

    All recognized forms of life on this planet are motivated by an instinct of survival. It is this instinct combined with the complex chemical structure of living things that makes the foundation to the theory on the evolution of the species. The Homo Sapience is seen as the pinnacle of evolution because of its ability to transfer not only genetic information from one generation to another, but also intellectual information. As a result of this development, man’s natural survival instinct is transformed into an instinct of Eternal Survival. One can trace all human activities back to this instinct. It is Eternal Survival that explains the development of religion as well as scientific development, economy, society, philosophy and art.

    The city is the most efficient environment for humanity’s survival. One can deduce this from the simple fact that urbanization is developing at a higher rate of acceleration then that of the world’s population. Humans flock in growing numbers from rural and dispersed living environments into concentrated and dense environments - cities.

    It is commonly accepted that humanity is a social species. The Eternal Survival instinct can explain why this is so. In fact, one could say that it is in human’s interest to become social as it furthers their chances to satisfy their Eternal Survival instinct. The advantages of living in ever growing groups are obvious. It is in a group that the chances to couple with a suitable mate for bringing up the next generation are higher. Groups are more capable of defending themselves against enemies. They are capable of constructing defense structures such as the china wall, the “largest man made object that can be seen from the moon”. They are capable of commemorating personalities and events for posterity constructing structures like the Pyramid, The Arc De Triumph, The Arc of Titus, Nelson’s column etc. Groups also allow for large-scale projects, such as the search for livable Planets in the universe as an alternative to Earth with its limited resources. Groups also form a fertile ground for ever-growing commerce.

    Humanity formed groups from its beginning. Starting from a family and tribe to ever growing social structures culminating with the city or even what we nowadays call Mega-Cities.

    When we set out to plan a city we must first ask ourselves a simple question. What is a City?

    The German philosopher Max Horkheimer begins his book Eclipse of Reason with a sentence which (when we substitute in it the word “reason” with “city”) may point to the basic problem facing urban planning today. He writes: “When the ordinary man is asked to explain what is meant by the term City [reason, in Horkheimer’s text], his reaction is almost always one of hesitation and embarrassment. It would be a mistake to interpret this as indicating wisdom too deep or thought too abstruse to be put into words. What it actually betrays is the feeling that there is nothing to inquire into, that the concept of City [of reason] is self-explanatory, that the question itself is superfluous.”

    Numerous attempts were made to define the City. Most range the spectrum between the technocratic through the ridiculous to the mystical. Governments may define the City as “a habitation of more then 20,000 inhabitants”. The Encyclopedia Britannica defined the City in its 1965 issue as “a collection or aggregation of inhabited houses larger than a village”. Lewis Mumford defined the City as a “special framework directed toward the creation of differentiated opportunities for a common life and a significant collective drama”. While all these contain a grain of truth, none provide a tool for the understanding of the City let alone, designing one.

    This paper presents “Intimate Anonymity” - a theory of the city, which is believed to form such a tool. “Intimate Anonymity” is based on an original definition of the City that stipulates that the City is a place that allows human beings to form relations with others at various levels of intimacy while remaining entirely anonymous. A successful city is one in which, when exiting a private domain into the public domain, a person should see people around him but know nothing about them. It is this situation which provides the inhabitant of this special environment to be continuously surrounded by potential contacts.

    The most common complaint against the contemporary city is that the individual gets lost in it – that he becomes alienated and that he does not experience a sufficient sense of community. Popular logic has transformed this complaint into a charge against anonymity. The individual feels anonymous, unknown and lonely in the massive urban environment.

    On the other hand, the notion of community – once again in the popular view – is frequently seen as opposed to this sense of anonymity. The notion of community is most readily expressed in the idea of a small, homogeneous and intimate village, or “neighborhood”, were everyone knows everyone else and feels more or less comfortable in a familiar setting. The inevitable charge against the village is that it becomes claustrophobic, limiting, and does not allow the individual to find full self-expression.

    The concept of “Intimate Anonymity” negotiates and bridges the gap between these competing conceptions.

    In order to create a sense of self, one needs to create an identity. In order to achieve this he needs to be a part of a community with which to identify. He needs to form his village, so to speak, within the city. The city should provide him with the possibility of making contact with a large variety of people from which to choose his intimate group.

    What are the conclusions that could be drawn from the above definition?

    Architecture and Planning combine ethic and aesthetic considerations. It seems that 20th C. practice emphasized aesthetics over ethics. Whereas, until the 19th C. urban architecture served the purpose of defining urban space, sacrificing individual character for a common good, 20th C. architecture concentrated on the building as a free standing object, expressing the individual character of the architect as an artist.

    Public space is the primary ingredient of the city. In fact, one can say that the city should be seen as composed of only public spaces, such as streets, squares, parks etc. it is not, as commonly maintained, composed of buildings. Buildings should be seen in the context of the city, as walls are perceived in the context of a building. Thus, the primary role of buildings in the city is to define Urban Space. As an illustration one could look at the way Manhattan skyscrapers such as the Empire State Building relate to the adjacent avenues and streets in comparison to the way La Defense towers in Paris, relate to the spaces surrounding them, spaces that can hardly be named urban.

    “Intimate Anonymity” entails the simultaneous sharing of public space with other, unknown people. In order to achieve that, Urban space should not be seen as an end in itself. It must always be a part of a network of spaces allowing random movement of people through them. It is for this reason that the piazza in front of Saint Peter Cathedral in Rome, although impressive in size, detail and aesthetic values, is inferior, as an urban space, to the much admired piazza Navona, composed of mainly mundane urban architecture of no special artistic values.

    An urban space should never serve a single use like a church, Opera or Municipality. The recently completed Jerusalem Municipality Piazza, although beautifully detailed and proportioned, is a lifeless space because there is no random passage through it and it serves a single use. Answering the question, “why are you here?” a random passer by will most probably answer: “I’m going to pay my municipal taxes”, betraying his being a citizen of Jerusalem by the mere fact of being there.

    Urban theorists, from Camillo Sitte to Edmund Bacon and Rob Krier, based their analysis on the form and proportions of urban space. What they failed to recognize is the fact that in all successful spaces it is the relation between space dimensions and proportions to the quantity of random users of the space that counts. Were a large number of random users is expected, urban space may be large, a square or piazza. A smaller number of random users may justify a street. An even smaller number will require an alley.

    Jane Jacobs noticed the values, to urban life, of mixed uses existing in old urban fabrics, and the ills of “zoning”, practiced in post industrial revolution planning. “Intimate Anonymity” lays the theoretical foundation to this observation. A person walking a street of a “business district” betrays his occupation as well as his social standing. A person seen in a university campus is most probably a student. A person seen on a street of a neighborhood zoned for housing certainly lives there. They all sacrifice a portion of their anonymity by the mere fact that they are seen in those environments. “Zoning” is therefore, according to “intimate Anonymity”, an anti urban practice.

    The “floor” of urban space should always be ground level. The “human animal” is using its energy efficiently just like goats selecting their path on a mountain slope to achieve minimal use of energy. Attempts to raise, or lower, urban space to other levels, like in the World Trade Center Plaza in New York, will always result in users’ diminished anonymity and an inferior urban space.

    A conscious effort must be made to make people use urban space. Spaces that are expected to be used by a large number of random passers by should allow, on their perimeter, room for the spontaneous use by a variety of services; cultural, spiritual, commercial, gastronomic, financial etc.

    In urban spaces that serve a small number of passers by, an effort should be made to locate housing or work spaces with their main access facing the urban space.

    In many modern cities, an effort was made to separate pedestrians from people using their private car. This resulted, in many instances by the creation of parallel movement systems, pedestrian and vehicular. The result, in most cases was that neither contain a significant quantity of people to allow for “Intimate Anonymity”. Separation of pedestrians from vehicular traffic should be practiced only when the vehicular traffic is clearly not interested in the specific location but uses the route to pass through. It may also be practiced when the urban space is so successful that excessive numbers of both pedestrians and vehicles compete on the limited space. It must be remembered that the best pedestrian precinct was a mixed traffic zone before.

    In view of the city with the concept of “Intimate Anonymity” in mind, it is not surprising to realize that all through urban history, and until the 19th C. city plans are demonstrating an amazing continuity. It should not come as a surprise that the gridiron plan was used by ancient civilizations like the Greeks in Miletus 466BC, the Romans in Timgad 100AD through to the Spanish in Barcelona and the Americans in Manhattan. The gridiron is a pure mathematical representation of the possibility of creation of multiple routes from any point A in an area to any point B. The choice of many routes promotes anonymity.

    One may argue that if cities throughout history follow the same identical theoretical foundation, they should have all looked the same. Since they don’t, the theoretical principal could not be that simple and unique. They sometimes are inclined to conclude that the multiplicity of urban forms suggests a much more complex and diverse theoretical base.

    The formal expression of “Intimate Anonymity” is diverse because of the cultural, economic, technologic, geographic and climatic circumstances specific to each location both in time and space. We should not revert to precedents of the past, like the “New Urbanists” tend to do. If we design cities in the conditions of our epoch, based on “Intimate Anonymity” and not on yet another utopia, the result will be a true expression of our times that will best serve our needs as humans.

    The concept of “Intimate Anonymity”, and the definition of the city which underlies it, emphasizes an entirely ethical approach to urban design by putting human contacts in the forefront and ignoring esthetical considerations altogether. However esthetical, an urban space will fail if it is not based on ethical considerations. The future of urbanism lies in the understanding that the city is not a sculpture, it is a Human event.















    Intimate Anonymity or Breaking the Code of the Urban Gnome

  18. #18
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Congratulations on having a paper presented. Genome: one complete haploid set of chromosomes of an organism.

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