- Published: June 17, 2022
- Updated: June 17, 2022
- University / College: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
- Language: English
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Why is movement important for heritage planning for living historic cities?
The importance of space and movement in cities is well recognized in many disciplines including sociology (Goffman, 1963, 1972; Lefebvre, 1991), geography (Christaller, 1933; Ullman, 1954; Weber, 1921) architecture and urban studies (Jacobs, 1961; Hillier, 1996). For example, in his urban sociological studies, Goffman (1972) looked at movement or flow to uncover the meaning of social interaction and cultural production in a general sense. He referred to mobility as an aspect of urbanity in a number of examples and empirical discussions. Goffman also developed a rich vocabulary for describing mobility in urban life impacting the way we think about self and other, place and space in cities. Therefore, it can easily be argued that for Goffman urban mobility was more than movement from A to B. Rather, it is one of the basic building blocks of the social fabric of the city. By moving in the city among buildings, objects, and people, one interacts with the “ environment,” making sense of it and ultimately producing culture and identity (Jensen, 2010).
In geography, the relationship between places and flows has been the subject of study for decades. The classical function of the city as a center of movement and exchange was acknowledged in traditional urban theories. For example, Weber (1921, trans. 1968) argued that the regular exchange of goods was one of the basic characteristics of cities. Christaller (1933, trans. 1966) used the central place theory to explain the size, significance and spatial distribution of cities or settlements against the background of the management of flows. In his contribution on ‘ geography as spatial interaction’, Edward Ullman (1954, reprint. 1980) explained how flows and physical space interact stressing the basic role of the interplay of site and situation. His view evolved from a critical assessment of the discipline as being obsessed by the gravity model and its emphasis on areas and territories, rather than on behavior, situation and interrelation. More recently, the relationship between places and flows has altered due to extraordinary technological and socio-economic changes. As a result, some have argued for the primacy of ‘ the space of flows’ over ‘ the space of places’ (e. g., Castells, 2002). Others have dissented suggesting neither that places dominate flows nor that flows tend to determine places. The two are intertwined in a complex relationship that is constantly reproduced (e. g., Hesse, 2010).
In architecture and urban design, Jane Jacobs (1961) discussed forcefully the role of movement in relation to urbanity. Street safety, she suggested, is promoted by spontaneous protection with the eyes of both pedestrians and those watching the continual flow of pedestrians from buildings. She also suggested ‘ a dense concentration of people’ as a precondition of lively cities. After Jacobs, many other people have taken a similar view arguing that successful urban places are based predominantly on the various ways in which street life occurs (for example, see Buchanan, 1988; Cook, 1980; Gehl, 1989; Montgomery, 1998).
More recently, Hillier (1996) discusses the relationship between space and movement in cities. Unlike Jacobs, Hillier identifies multifunctionality and the part-whole structure as the two most important issues of urbanity. Both of which, according to Hillier, relies on spatial configuration determining how we as individuals find the city intelligible, and how we move around it. Based on the findings of the empirical studies that he and others have conducted around the world using space syntax, the theories and methods that he pioneered, Hillier writes,
[The] structure of the urban grid considered purely as a spatial configuration, is itself the most powerful single determinant of urban movement, both pedestrian and vehicular.
Because this relation is fundamental and lawful, it has already been a powerful force in shaping our historically evolved cities, by its effect on land-use patterns, building densities, the mixing of uses in urban areas and the part-whole structure of the city. (Hillier, 1996, p. 113)
If movement and its relationships with space are important for cities in general, as argued by many, then these must be even more important for living historic cities. While movements of people and cars on the streets of these cities may be good indicators for liveliness and vitality, high-density movements that defy the traditional social logic of space can easily damage the physical and social environments of these cities forcing traditional dwellers of these historic cities to move somewhere else. As they move out, the building they leave behind are taken over by commercial functions, poor people, or by people with little knowledge of the traditional ways of these cities.
When the traditional functions of historic cities are taken over by commercial functions, property values and rents rise. They bring in new economically stronger business establishments, such as banks, supermarket, luxury shops and large hotel chains, that push out economically weaker shops and crafts as well as social and cultural institutions. They also bring in more cars. As a result, the processes of destruction, modernization and/or refurbishment of historic buildings are enhanced, which cause the camaraderie of these cities to change. In contrast, when taken over by poor people, the transformation of historic cities is slow but often towards self-destruction. For a lack of proper maintenance, the fragile buildings and fabric of these cities become even more fragile, ruinous and unusable. The more dilapidated these cities are, the more they bring in poor people. Soon, they become slums with overcrowding and crimes where no one wants to invest making it difficult to preserve and maintain the heritage of historic cities.
Although Goffman primarily focused on movement in space in the form of social interaction, his theory applies to architectural practice. Some spaces or social settings, including parts of historic cities, are closed off from public access (Goffman, 1966: 10). In this case, the regulation of movement stems from the need to sustain pristine conditions of heritage sites. Movement matters in architecture because the physical and cognitive responses from people and their interaction with one another influence the value and quality of experiences in spaces, such as historic cities. Spaces constitute a sphere or a system where the elements – urban spaces and architecture, people, interaction, and movements – affect or influence one another. Hence, the kinds of movements displayed in spaces could affect or change other elements in the system, such as architecture. It is for this reason that some spaces are forbidden to the public: movement and social interaction affect other elements in spaces, specifically in historic cities where there is a constant need to preserve heritage resources. Consequently, in terms of heritage planning, practices in architecture and urban planning consider design and structure with the condition that movements in these spaces are regulated or controlled, as movement should be (Goffman, 1966: 10), to ascertain the preservation of spaces in historic cities.
Security and vulnerability are two other reasons why architecture and urban planning should seek to regulate or control movement in spaces. As previously noted, the regulation of movement in spaces, especially historic cities, is important as it would ascertain the preservation of heritage sites. Aside from the preservation of historic cities, however, heritage planning must also consider the security and vulnerability of people. Goffman (1972: 331) discussed security and vulnerability in public life extensively and focused on the idea that threats exist in public spaces. It is important that people consider the possibility of threats to security so they should be on guard always. Similarly, public spaces must have safeguards against these threats and to protect people from expected and possible vulnerabilities. If we are to relate this issue to architecture and urban planning within the context of heritage planning, then practices must ascertain the security of public life. Consequently, to ensure public safety, planning must include measures to control movement. Understandably, spaces in historic cities must provide people opportunities to explore and interact with objects or structures. Nevertheless, movement must also be controlled through planning to ensure security and the moderation of vulnerabilities that could threaten people, public life, and spaces in historic cities that require constant maintenance and preservation. Goffman (1972: 12) justified the need to regulate movement in spaces by alluding similarities between public life and movement in spaces to traffic and existing traffic codes or regulations. To control traffic, regulations exist to ensure the steady flow of traffic and the avoidance of collision or accidents. Without these rules and regulations, and if people do not obey such rules, it would interfere with the flow of traffic and could cause catastrophe. Similarly, in heritage planning, the design of spaces, thus, practices in architecture and urban planning, must take into consideration security. Furthermore, secure spaces in historic cities not only diminish threats and vulnerabilities for people and heritage objects or structures, but also ensure that movement in spaces would engender quality experiences and interactions for people.
As previously noted, heritage planning is primarily concerned with the preservation of heritage sites such as historic cities but it also deals with the management of these sites in relation to modernity and the rise of urban spaces, life, and culture. Modern life not only brought about changes in the way we live but also in the value and quality of spaces around us. Often, urban development and the practice of contemporary architecture bring about changes to spaces and some outcomes do not favor the goal or objective of heritage planning. It is for this reason that alignment between heritage planning and architecture and urban planning must be established because the synchronicity between these practices affect the future of historic cities. Simply put, practices and thrusts in heritage planning, architecture, and urban planning must not only move along with modernization but also ensure the preservation of historic cities. Lefebvre (1991: 167) asserted that some, if not most, of spaces will outlive their original purpose, and this is especially true of objects or structures in historic cities. Nowadays, through urban planning, we see modern spaces rise above the old. Nevertheless, the preservation of heritage spaces is still important because they enrich our culture. The challenge, therefore, lays in the need to reconcile contemporary or urban development and the preservation of historic cities. In response to this need, Lefebvre (1991: 167) suggested reappropriation, which is concerned with the preservation of spaces that outlived their purpose by putting them to use within the modern context. Reappropriation is the reason why in some historic cities, we see sites being converted into spaces that serve a purpose, such as historic buildings being transformed into bed and breakfasts or cafés. Within this context, reappropriation considers movement, such that it takes old and irrelevant spaces and transforms it into spaces where people can socialize and interact, thus, turning a historic building into a café considers movement in the sense that social interaction often occurs in cafés. The foregoing example strongly illustrates the importance of movement as a factor in heritage planning, architecture, and urban planning, especially in historic cities. Taking note of movement, or specifically the way that people move or interact in spaces, will guide heritage planning and architecture in such a way that the reappropriation of spaces in historic cities would be towards the production of spaces that would accommodate these movements.
Our primary aim in discussing movement is to determine its importance and role in heritage planning for historic cities. Moreover, this must be in relation to architecture and urban planning. In the foregoing discussion, we explored different reasons for this – the need for secure historic cities, secure spaces for people, and the reappropriation of spaces so they can be of use to people. Nevertheless, perhaps the most important consideration in heritage planning is the preservation of historic cities towards the goal of enriching culture. Hence, the primary goal of heritage culture is to preserve heritage resources, which similarly facilitates the preservation and enrichment of culture. The existence and public access to historic cities provide valuable experiences for people through which they can learn about culture, and this is the main reason why movement is important in heritage planning for historic cities. In modern times, the reappropriation of spaces and structures in historic cities is inevitable. Even if practitioners respond to changes due to modernity through urban planning, plans still look towards the preservation of sites. To achieve this aim, it is important that heritage planning consider movement in decision-making. As argued by Jensen (2010: 389), even if we seek mobility, just as we do in public transit, we similarly prioritize the way that we move through space. In public spaces and transport, even the simply movement of one place to another could transform and enrich culture because of the way people experience this movement. Hence, if we see a public space with designate lanes for bicycles, this space enriches culture in relation to a healthy lifestyle and a leisurely exploration of sites and public spaces. Jensen’s (2010: 389) argument illustrates the importance of movement in heritage planning – heritage planning in historic cities must find a way to synchronize movement in space to the essence of heritage and culture in order to elevate experiences for people in these spaces, and thus, enrich culture.
One way to establish valuable experiences for people moving in space to enrich culture is to consider the arrangement of objects and structures in space. Christaller (1933 trans. 1966) explored this in relation to the Central Place Theory (CPT), which places significance on the arrangement, size, and number of structures in space. The ‘ central place’ illustrates the sphere of influence, such that it affects patterns of movement. Ideally, a central place is a space or a structure that offers varied services to people, which facilitates the movement of people within this sphere. Apart from offering diverse services that suits the needs and demands of people, the central place is also accessible to the public. The concept of ‘ central place’ applies to the issue of movement and heritage planning because it sets an example for historic cities. Historic cities are expected to draw people as spaces that nurtures culture and thus, provides meaningful experiences for this population. Therefore, historic cities must stimulate movement and the CPT theory suggests a way for this to happen. Through responsive practices in architecture and urban development within the context of heritage planning, the establishment of central places can transform historic cities into spheres of influence. In doing so, the central place in a way adheres to reappropriation because it facilitates movement within its sphere, thus, making the space relevant again even if old or historic sites have outlived their purpose. This requires a thorough study of movement and interactions in central places, and the use of the study’s result to guide planning and decision-making towards the goal of stimulating movement in central places thereby making historic cities the spheres of influence.
If a space becomes a sphere of influence, however, planning must also take into consideration changes in movement in relation to space. People have increasingly depended on public spaces for their activities as illustrated by trends or movement patterns in Copenhagen (Gehl, 1989). The result of which is increase in traffic, an increase in the number of people frequenting public spaces and an increase in the number of buildings and establishments in public spaces. The same pattern can be observed in historic cities. Essentially, historic cities are considered tourist sites because many people travel to these places. As a consequences, an increase in movement, traffic, and number of structure can similarly be observed. In this situation, movement plays a role in heritage planning for historic cities because it reflects how spaces can be prepared through architecture and urban planning to handle changes in movement, traffic, and structures. The primary consideration is the adequacy of public spaces in historic cities to accommodate the needs of larger population and to facilitate heavy traffic and flow of movement in spaces. Through careful planning, architectural design could take into consideration the volume of people visiting historic cities so that structures can accommodate populations and the movement of people in public spaces.
Overall, movement in space plays an important role in guiding heritage planning for historic cities. Movement, within this context, refers to interactions between people and objects in space, and between people and others. In relation to historic cities, movement reflects interaction that ideally results in cultural enrichment. Issues abound about movement in historic cities, however, that necessitate careful and responsive heritage, architectural, and urban planning and development. Among those issues include the security of heritage resources, people’s vulnerability and possibility of threats, the need for reappropriation, and the need to address or accommodate the needs of people in public spaces, especially in the event of increase in movement or activity, among others. To address these issues, heritage planning must take into consideration movement, within the context of patterns or trends in movement, the volume of movement, and purpose of movement. After a careful study of movement, practitioners can employ architectural and urban development practices to address the foregoing issues and ensure meaningful experiences for people in historic places and public spaces. It is for this reason that architectural practices must match the value of objects and structures in historic cities, the purpose of heritage planning, and movement in spaces.
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