Streets on the ground: Rediscovering planned and unplanned city streets.

Session Chair: Dr. Agustina Martire

Dr. Agustina Martire is a lecturer in Architecture at Queen’s University Belfast specialised in urban history and theory. She studied architecture at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, completed her PhD in TU Delft focused on the history of Urban Leisure Waterfronts. She worked as a post-doctoral researcher in TU Delft and UCD Dublin. She leads an international project on the analysis of streets as public spaces, from a multidisciplinary perspective, which sheds light on the way urban spaces are used and represented. She currently runs a studio unit in the Masters in Architecture focused on street analysis in Belfast.


Urban Streets as cultural heritage: changes in perception in the UK. The case of Castle Street in Belfast.
Anna Skoura,  Queen’s University Belfast.
Considering streets as spaces and recognising them as a fundamental component of the historic urban landscape is a relatively recent development in the city’s long history. Recent approaches consider the street as cultural heritage of great significance. Up to the nineteenth century, despite the ever changing philosophies and ideologies regarding the city, the evolution of the street has been slow and incremental, with the historic urban landscape still maintaining its links with the past and a sense of continuity. However, the twentieth century has brought major transformations to the streets that tore the tight urban fabric apart. This paper starts with a brief study of the history of the street in the United Kingdom and then traces the changes in perception of streets as cultural heritage. It researches popular attitudes towards streets, the planning policies and heritage protection charters and legislation in different time periods. A case study is in turn employed to demonstrate the changes in perception and to highlight the importance of urban street heritage. This case study comprises Castle Street in Belfast: a central shopping street that links the -heavily segregated during the Troubles- Catholic Falls Road with the neutral city centre. Castle Street has been intensely transformed in the last 50 years, reflecting the striking changes in the city of Belfast. Finally, a multi-layered analysis reveals that, despite having suffered extensive erasure and demolition, Castle Street still carries traces of its heritage and remains an important part of the city’s historic urban landscape.
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Landscape Roads.
Alessandra Como, University of Salerno (Italy).
Luisa Smeragliuolo Perrotta, University of Salerno.
Carlo Vece, University of Salerno.

In Italy, as in other countries, from the 1960s onwards, there has been an increase in public works such as road and infrastructure networks. These constructions created fast connections building a new system of relations superimposed on the landscape, which changed with the inclusion of the new works. They represent large-scale systems that respond to needs that go beyond the city dimension, with difficulty in relating to the human and the city scale. In some cases, they are famous unfinished parts, estranged from the network systems and now abandoned.

Now-days there’s the need to transform the infrastructure networks and to reconsider their role within the urban fabric. The dismissal process could be considered as an opportunity to rethink at the infrastructures, rediscovering their civic role and designing those relationships which they never had with other areas of the city.

The presented case-studies, concerning the cities of Salerno and Naples, will investigate the issue of the infrastructure, seen within the territorial dimension and in their specific role of redesigning the public space and reconnecting with the urban fabric. The study of solutions to connection problems, the use of dismissed and residual areas, will provide opportunities to explore new potentialities of the contemporary city within the relationships with the ground, the views from above and nature, building a new landscape city. One of the selected case-study deals with the new train station of Napoli-Afragola designed by Zaha Hadid, showing how infrastructures do not directly solve problems of the cities that they cross. Motorway, high-speed railway and viaducts, imposed during a top-down transportation planning process, break the territory creating voids and no-men lands. The proposal intends to reconnect these parts through a new light civic infrastructure bringing back the public space role to the street, following old traces of the urban plot.


Bottom-up interventions in Downtown Cairo, successes and failures.

Dr. Bedour Hemeid

A walk through Downtown Cairo is a unique experience any urban planner or architect would appreciate. It is a district from the nineteenth century that has transformed from an elite neighbourhood known as “Paris of the Nile” into a chaotic district overrun by busy traffic in the main streets and street vendors in the marginal passageways. Such decayed condition left the area with potential urban cracks and forgotten pockets that caught the attention of the Egyptian government and private developers in the 1990s. Their agenda is based on bringing in new-blood of different typologies of activities at the expense of expelling original residents and small-scale stakeholders.
Along the process, Downtown went through a major gentrification wave in some of its vital zones. This rapid change in the area led some initiatives to take action against this sprawling gentrification. They started reclaiming some forgotten pockets and marginal passages in Downtown, as potential seeds for new urban ideas to develop and new social bonds to establish. This paper, therefore, focuses on one of the ongoing experiments of a passage called Kodak, a narrow service alleyway that was transformed into a public hub by one of those initiatives called CLUSTER. Their approach to transform the street emphasized a more engaging, diverse and environmentally enhanced experience that involved shops, cafes and galleries, a method that would bring in new types of users. Such reconfiguration of the passage was not easy due to its critical location opposite one of the last active synagogues in Egypt with the constant control of police personal.
As a bottom-up intervention still under evaluation, this paper will discuss the success/failure of the collaboration between urban planners and users in Downtown streets, questioning how can we as planners make sure that such transformations would not gentrify the streets as how we know them.
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The faces going by – converging vistas : another look at Jerusalem’s Route No. 1 studies in motion.

Maier Yagod.

Roads are usually traveled down, crossed and looked along two main axis, longitudinally
and latitudinally. I would like to present my research regarding the road as a diagonal vista. This research is an expansion on previously presented investigations into Jerusalem’s Route 1. This urban artery as has long been viewed as a seam line because it was partially built on the remnants of the 1949 Jordanian-Israeli ceasefire line and constitutes one of the most graphic spatial divide between the city’s East and West. Beyond its role as a mechanism or infrastructure connecting places, Route 1 is an icon of the fixity of the liminal; its expanse embodies the “border condition,” which recreates, reinforces, and reinterprets the past and present by presenting a concrete reality with its own ambience and atmospherics of memory.
The diagonal vista has always been a favorite angle for architects, but less so for planners. I  would like to show how this perspective might be taken as an urbanistic tool by which to analyze space. In my previous research I applied an urban temporalspatial analysis of existence in movement, I recast Route 1 as a transhistorical space containing the everyday
consciousness of Jerusalem. Here the conventional binary divisions seem to dissolve in a
subtle way for the automobile driver, bus rider, or light rail passenger who actually inhabit the space. In this research I would like to look at the road as view, a perspective, a place we do not only inhabit, but also see. I wish to show how the top down perspective not only ignores reality on the ground, but obscures the potential that this space has.
While roads, especially thoroughfares are not usually seen as iconic public spaces or
producers of memory, such as public squares, neighborhood streets and parks, I will argue that we can rethink and learn how to view and analyze essential infrastructure as a producer of improved urbanism. Our ability to view place as an aesthetic experience as well as an a phenomenological one can foster a reimagining of the kinetic, agonistic, and creative forces which form the modern Middle East.
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Streets as Service
Diarmaid Lawlor, Director of Place, Architecture and Design Scotland.

In many places, there is talk of a crisis in the public realm. Streets are failing. Town centres are becoming more empty. Old uses are no longer working, particularly at the scale of towns. The scale, and threat of emptiness create concern for citizens about loss of identity, of heritage, of service. The presence of emptiness, together with the logistics of smaller spaces and greater accessibility needs is resulting in more services locating away from central streets, and into edge of town facilities, in the public and private realms. So, what is the 21st century future for old streets?

Ecologists have begun to look at the benefits of the natural environment in terms of ‘ecosystem services’. A series of services to support humanity are enabled by the infrastructure of ecosystems, and the services created by habitats and systems within this infrastructure. This services thinking invites new thinking about the logic of organisation, and benefits. So too with cities and towns. The traditional city is built on an industrial logic; highly centralised, with a focus on production. The ‘Smart City’ is focused on creating clusters of goods and products, enabled by rapid flows of information. The future city is about services, about the way people can co-create value enabled by the spaces and infrastructure of the city.

Streets with empty spaces are an ideal asset management tool to enable new uses in old places. They allow for different combinations of activity, linked by the public space of the city. Radical refurbishment, re-imagining spatial potential, and re-thinking old spaces as environments for value creation allow use to think about new forms of public realm. Drawing on work in Scotland on learning places, and the city of Espoo in Finland, this presentation will chart the narrative of ‘streets as services’.