Friday 14 January 2011

Gift reflection and looking forward: A proposition and an insight

Veil, fluid, invisible, carved, banal
My gift project suggests both an insight about retaining walls, and a proposition on a site in Seoul. I was keen to engage with a specific area of the city. This has been useful but has resulted in a gift that has moved away from earlier observations I made. The gift proposition concentrated on circulation, moving between changes in level, which is only one small aspect of what the walls mean for the city. Therefore, in some ways the gift has not said (or given) what it had potential to. Instead it responded to one small part of my overall research. Therefore, I see the gift as two parts, an insight and a proposition. The insight considers the repercussions of the walls on the city as a whole. They:

- disregard the traditional Korean relationship to landscape, where views and connection to landscape are prioritised. They form a veil between landscape and city.
- run counter to more formal systems, and are allied to landscape because although they alter the topography, they follow the contours of the natural landscape. They create not just a physical condition but also a social condition for the city. They create a fluidity and anarchic quality, they are continuous. They guide and frame. Their material qualities and scale transform traditional small narrow winding streets into expansive repetitive spaces. They are not a new phenomenon but the city’s demands are changing the nature of the walls.
- are invisible (blind) yet present, important. The surfaces seem ignored, uncelebrated, but their physical scale is apparent. Older walls are more usually integrated into buildings resulting in much richer surfaces. Each wall has its own character form by their material, structure and context.
- alter topography (landscript), hiding the true strata of land. This is lasting. The pressure of the earth is carved, excavated and folded by the walls.
- are banal and essential, a piece of city infrastructure. They offer a level of permanence which is more akin to landscape than the fast-changing (built) city. City uses may change, but the pattern of the walls will remain imprinted on the urban fabric.

Sunday 9 January 2011

Discovering the 'undercity'

Exploring dis-used railways, sewers and bridges in New York.

UNDERCITY from Andrew Wonder on Vimeo.

"What was really different about being arrested in France was that they seemed to understand the value of the urban infrastructure".

Monday 3 January 2011

Northern Heights Pathway

Once a train line for steam trains (1867), this track closed after a lack of passenger demand. Later, the route was intended to be converted into an extension of the Northern line but the Second World War disrupted construction and, due to post-war cuts, it never became reality. Today, it is still used by the public, but as a Parkland Walk. Predictable?
Figure ground and aerial view
From aerial views, it is clear to see how the railway line has impacted on the growth of the neighbourhoods around it. Some buildings seem to be shaped entirely around the track whilst others ignore its cut through the city. It will be interesting to see how much of the infrastructure of the train line remains today.

City may change but retaining walls (infrastructure) remain. The Apatu to culture is to knock down and start again after three or four decades. The needs of the city are changing. In London, the Northern Heights line fell into disrepair after a lack of passenger demand. In its abandoned state, its pattern on the city remains.

Returning to London

As mentioned after the final crit in Seoul, the British railway system is an interesting comparison in terms of guiding through the city, and making a lasting pattern, as part of the city’s infrastructure. I have come across several disused railway tracks which are of interest. Their intended uses are no longer in practice but their impact on the city remains.

An association with transport systems

During discussions a few weeks ago, various comparisons were made with retaining walls in England and Seoul. Prior to my discoveries in Korea, I had always associated retaining walls with transport systems. When I tried to think of retaining walls back in England, I thought of motorways, railways and rivers. As Peter Ferretto mentioned there is a ‘blindness’ to retaining walls, as if we don’t realise that they’re there, and yet we feel their presence because of the way they can dictate and shape the city.

It would be ludicrous to suggest that retaining walls play a similar role in London as they do in Seoul – namely because the topography doesn’t require so many of them. However, when looking at railways in London, the presence of retaining walls reveal themselves once again. 

Friday 17 December 2010

The final crit in Seoul: The Gift

Critics: Peter Ferretto, Robert Mull, Stef Rhodes, Haewon Shin, Ryul Song

Overview of comments to consider before January's crit in London:

- Fascinating topic – the walls are visible to us and you make them visible. But what do you think they are?
- Drawings similar to Appia's – stage set designer
- Consider accidental qualities of walls – drainage, flower pots
- Ideas interesting but Gift proposal is a bit simplistic. Revisit some of the ideas that have been explored in Seoul
- Models are missing!
- The way of representing ideas is rich. Walls are a colliding and layering of space
- Think about meaning of drawings (things you may not be aware of yet)
- Topography – when you look at retaining walls, you are participating in a larger scale site
- Consider continuous element of the walls. The enjoyable element is that you walk along them
- Linearity of Victorian railway tracks – an English comparison. Could final site be in England?
- Traditional, practical, poetic aspects of walls

Reflection of crit and time in Korea
- After ‘intervening’ physically in a long retaining wall, it is important also to reflect more on the wall itself, rather than simply cutting through it. Rather than think about the object, think about the theme
- Close analysis of this part of Seoul has been useful in order to engage with a specific site. However, there is also the subject of the wider scale – how retaining walls offer a re-reading of Seoul’s landscape
- A reference brought up in the crit was Victorian railways in London and how these shape the city, with similarities to retaining walls in Seoul. The walls navigate, guide, divide, and link spaces in the city. Equally, so do London’s railway routes.
- Although perhaps not the most obvious step, this seems particularly relevant to the project because of the connection I have between retaining walls and transport i.e. before Seoul, my view of retaining walls was always associated with transport systems as they are often found next to motorways, rivers and so on.

Sunday 12 December 2010

Sketch model: peeling back the contours revealing a lost landscript

Quick sketch models begin to suggest how revealing the natural contours can begin to shape the paths across the wall. The front of the site (mid-rise residential) whereas the back is rationalised and planned (apatu complex). The retaining wall is the meeting of these two patterns.

Plan diagrams: steps

A landscape strata for Hongjie

Like Paju Book City, the landscape strata begin to influence the levels of the spaces for the journey traversing the wall. This sets out a set of constraints on the vertical plane.

Friday 10 December 2010

Plan diagrams: steps

Plan diagrams (bottom to top): street, half landing, courtyard

Spaces dictate location of steps

Defining spaces begin to dictate layout of steps and routes through wall. Consideration of different paces: direct routes, ramped access, slow staircase
A dialogue: View from existing 'half-landing' to under-used public space on opposite side of the road

View from top is marred by 1400 mm high balustrade in front of car park