Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Cycles in Urban Environments


This is an introduction to what URBAN TICK is meant to look into. The topic has grown from my master thesis and is based on the AKA project - www.jafud.com. It has since evolved into a research topic on its own. The following gives a short introduction.

Cycles, rhythms and patterns exist in everyday urban life. There is something that brings us out of the bed in the morning, lets us squeeze into the tube at the same time as so many other citizens do, gives us a sense of time - lets us remember a past event and brings us back to bed after all. The same rhythm brings goods into town, exports products and consumes entertainment. It also scratches on the facade of buildings changes usages and sets up trends. The city ticks somehow. Cycles appear in any part of life. Examples can be found in time, economics, and the environment and could be seasons, day, technology, events, life cycles, or even particular phenomena like rush hour or basic needs such as breathing, eating and sleeping. They are celebrated through rituals and used as a tool for categorization. In the first place, the main characteristics are, that it is continuous along a time axis, i.e. it could be described as the manifestation of time passing by. In the second place, its characteristic is that some sort or repetition occurs. The repetition is a tool for feedback. ‘From the study of living systems and the science of cybernetics, we learnt about the importance of feedback loops to maintain a system. This information is processed along any cycle and constantly leads to an assessment. The continuum of the cycle in its repetitions gives a rhythm or a pattern to life’ [Capra, (1997), p 155]. This pattern is the subject of this research work with the focus on the urban environment. How do these cycles move people and goods through the city and how its rhythm interacts with the built surrounding? Many different cycles overlap at any point in the city. They are not synchronized and they interfere and disturb one another. This can be the source of movement and activity in urban life. In order to understand this, I will try to find out where these cycles come from, how they build up and whether and how they transform into urban form. In my master thesis developed at the Bartlett School of Architecture in 2005, I started researching on cycles in urban environments. The cycles I identified were grouped into three categories. The first group was natural cycles, containing rhythms such as day and night, seasons and basic human needs. The second group was activity cycles, working hours, weekend, rush hour and it also includes economical cycles, trends and so on. The third group is the material cycles, containing everything from material life cycle to building life cycle and containing technical aspects such as refurbishment, concepts of revitalizing. As an overall aspect, cycles touch in all fields on sustainability, from object to lifestyle to townscape. Referring to the three previously named categories, the second on, activity cycles, will be the main focus of the research. This leads to a focus on the interaction of humans and the build environment.

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