Understanding Urban Landscapes Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 08:24:05
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The emergence of modern urban planning is as a result of efforts that are directed at addressing and solving the social problems that result due to the increased rural to urban migration. The number of individuals moving into urban areas in search for better work opportunities keeps increasing rapidly by the day. It has therefore become crucial for changes to be made and implemented in the way buildings are designed and planned so as to deal with this situation.

The postmodern turn in architecture and planning is however not equipped well enough to cope with these social issues as it only focuses on particular needs, fancies and wants. Modernists idea of urban planning and development focuses on large-scale, technologically rational and metropolitan-wide urban plans that are efficient that are characterized by no-frills architecture (Harvey, 1989). Post modernism architecture instead displays a conception of urban planning as a mixture of past forms of design superimposed upon each and current uses most of which are ephemeral.

The fact that metropolis can only be commanded in bits has made urban design (postmodern turn in architecture) to be only sensitive to local histories, particular social needs and wants and vernacular traditions hence generating architectural forms that are specialized and highly customized that range from may range from intimate and spaces that are personalized through monuments that are traditional to spectacle gaiety flourishing to give appealing and remarkable architectural styles.

Post modern turn in architecture and planning has also departed from modern planning conceptions of how space is regarded. Modern planning perceives space as a thing to be shaped and created for social purposes hence always subservient to social project construction. Postmodern turn in architecture and planning however perceive space as an autonomous and independent thing that should be shaped in accordance to aesthetic aims and values which do not necessarily have anything to do with achieving a social objective except maybe for their timeless beauty (Relph, 1987).

This paper seeks to determine if this turn is better equipped to deal with the social issues for which modern planning was implemented for. It can be comfortably argued that the London act of 1895 laid the foundation for modern planning that emerged on the content. This act regulated the height of buildings on specific sites. As years went by, changes and developments were made on the Act which eventually led to the geometric undecorated styles that characterize modernism that dominated urban landscapes content all over the world (Best & Kellner, 1997).

Modern planning was implemented to improve the living conditions of urban areas. Initially urban planning aimed at solving problems that were present in urban areas by beautification of buildings and construction of gardens. This did not work out and the objective was shifted to designing and creation of good residential houses and neighborhoods in urban areas. This shift is actually what founded the forms and patterns of modern cities. Modern urban planning emerged as a result of industrialization which caused several people to move to urban areas where the industries were based in search of jobs.

Industrialization was blamed for exploiting workers and causing inequalities in living conditions. Individuals in urban areas lived in poor conditions such that they had poor housing, exposed to bad air, inadequate water and poor health Urban planning therefore aimed at improving these conditions and addressing the social needs of those who resided in urban areas (Relph, 1987). This was done through enaction of municipal by-laws that governed and regaled the standards of buildings, town layouts and modeling of industrial towns.

The by-laws also ensured building practices especially those that concerned fire and general safety of residents were observed. Minimum standards were set for door and window sizes. Later, standards that regulated the width of the street between buildings, size of the backyard and height of buildings were also implemented (Cohen, 1981). As years went by and the population in urban areas increased, so were changes made on the by-laws to accommodate the huge numbers. Such changes were mainly made on heights of buildings increasing them so that a large number of individuals could be supported on a small area of land.

Building practices that concerned safety and health were however maintained. These plans aimed at maintaining general cleanliness and health of town dwellers. They also went out of the neighborhood and sought to ensure that transport was adequate and efficient in urban areas. The by-laws regulated how far from the railway lines and roads the buildings were constructed. Streets and railway lines were improved and lighting provided to enhance efficiency in traveling even at night.

These plans directed where shops, schools and other institutes would be located in urban areas. The concepts of these plans have had a great impact on modern urban landscape though not in the way the early planners had hoped for (full modern civilization in all aspects including social). The impact can only be seen in the in things such as roundabouts, u-loops, neighborhood plans and the segregated neat land-use zones. Their cherished hopes and ideas for reconstruction of urban centres and social reforms have yielded very little.

These ideas have basically either been simplified and turned to models that are either used in classrooms, adjusted to planning tools that are radical for neighborhood planning and urban centre zoning, bureaucratically modified, politically adapted for exigencies or eroded so that their application and administration can be easy. Urban planning instead of focusing at meeting social needs, it has turned to be a movement whose main aim is just to make cities function efficiently more in the same as factories do. These changes hence resulted to what is now referred to as postmodern turn in architecture and planning.

This turn is characterized by cost effectiveness where the builders and designers aim at saving cost of building and making them low income projects. They are characterized by having apartments, shops, institutions such as classes and baby care centres all in one building. This is unlike the idea the early urban planners had in mind of a good city where these facilities were located in a comfortable walking distance from residential areas. The problem of this design where everything is housed under one roof is that growth through extension by width or length can not be achieved.

Growth in these buildings is only possible through multiplication as they no longer have the rectangular shape that was required of all buildings; they however are built in accordance with the owners desires who want the buildings to be distinctively different from others. This has resulted to the emergence of buildings that are of all sorts of shapes. Postmodern architecture and planning is considered not to have any life as there is no clear distinction between public environment and private property (Cohen,1981).

This is to imply that it has really messed up with the environment as it is mainly characterized by buildings and fences and as nothing is being done to preserve the environment. Postmodern architecture provides no healthy environment to the city dwellers as was intended by modern urban planning. This turn is very significant as it has had a great impact on the lives of people who reside in the urban centres Harvey, 1989). The current architecture is said to symbolize poverty which is worse than the slums it is trying to get away from.

It is argued that the postmodern turn in architecture and planning does not provide decent housing and social provision (Best & Kellner,1997). The culture and civic centres presented provided by post modern architecture for example are argued not to have all the required facilities such as book stores that are useful to the public. The designers in postmodern architecture and planning are also accused of being insensitive to self diversification amongst the city residents and not making any efforts towards providing it as perceive it to be ugly and irrational and that it could cause chaos.

Urban residents are also comfortable by the absence of self-diversification and seem not to bother about experiencing it as a need. Shift and development in technology has heavily contributed postmodern architecture and planning. It makes it possible for the designers to communicate with clients and tailor the designs so that they meet all the functions, cultural tastes and situations. These designers work to meet all the goals of their clients claiming to embrace democracy and freedom.

But then they ignore the conflicts that could arise between law and democracy and the collisions that exist between justice and freedom. The problems faced by the minorities and those who are unprivileged are usually ignored (Silver, 1996). Development in communication technology and through the postmodern architecture has made it impossible for localities to address their own problems and situations making it hard for them to develop. The modern global cities have emerged as a result of changes in cooperation.

They are designed such that they serve as centres for business activities. Most businesses seek to make profits hence will cut on costs in all ways including building construction in terms of design and functionality. This is one of the reasons as to why most buildings are multi functional (Johnson, 1970). Postmodern architecture is market oriented and is not in any equipped to deal with social issues. It is mainly focused to meet the desired of the owners who do not consider the needs of the city dwellers. The needs of the poor are not addressed the same way those of the rich are.

Diverse counter cultural elements have also been ignored by postmodern architecture and planning (Saskia,1996). Postmodern architecture and planning has reduced environmental standards as it has makes no effort towards conserving the environment. It also is private focused and has no place for the public. It has made living conditions in urban areas worse rather than improving them. This goes especially for the poor and minorities whose needs are always swept under the carpet as those of the wealthy are addressed.

It can therefore be concluded that postmodern turn in architecture and planning is not well equipped to cope with the social issues that modern urban planning was intended for. Word Count 1650.


Best, S & Kellner, D. , (1997). The Postmodern Turn. New York, NY Guilford Press. Cohen, R. (1981)The New International Division of Labour. Mulitinational Corporations and Urban Hierarchy. From M. Dear & A. J Scott (eds), Urbanization and Urban planning in Capitalist Societies (1981). London, Taylor & Francis. Harvey, D. (1989).

Postmodernism in the City: Architecture and Urban Design in conditions of postmodernity. Oxford. Basil Blackwell. Johnson, E. A (1970). The Organization of Space in Developing Countries. Cambridge, MA: Havard University Press Relph, E. (1987). The Invention of Modern Town planning. London, Taylor & Francis. Saskia, S. (1996). Cities and Communities in the Global Economy from American behavioural scientist. New York, NY: Routledge Silver, C. (1996). Planning the Twentieth-century American City. Baltimore, MD: JHU Press. Global networks, linked cities

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