City: Los Angeles | Tools: The urbanization of suburbia

The fast development, growth and merging of communities and whole cities is one of the most heavily discussed topics in the field of urban design. The attempts to describe this urbanization phenomenon of why and how cities grow, spread, sprawl and what terminology to use: metropolitanization, conurbation, poly-centralization, suburbanization etc. is very present and visible in numerous publications. As some authors see it as an inevitable and irreversible direction of urban development and socities, others favorize the argument of a contant change in cycles – also pointing out the negative implications and possible scenarios. Below you see can read the theories of two very renowned scholars: Lewis Mumford and Patrick Geddes and some of their visions and ideas:

“What matter to us, who look at it for the moment in this detached way from very far above, or even really to the actual citizens themselves to-day, those old boundaries of the countries, which were once traced so painfully and are still so strictly maintained, from use and wont or for purposes other than practical ones? What really matter nowadays the divisions between innumerable consistent villages and minor boroughs whose historic names are swallowed up, apparently for ever, like those microscopic plants, those tiny plants and animals, which a big spreading amoeba so easily includes, so restlessly devours? Here for most practical purposes is obviously a vas new unity, long ago well described as a ‘province covered with houses’ “.

Geddes, Patrick (1915): ‘Cities in Evolution’. Williams&Norgate. London. p. 26-27.

“The persistence of such overgrown containers would indicate that they are concrete manifestations of the dominant forces in our present civilization; and the fact that the same signs of overgrowth and overconcentration exist (…) show that these forces are universal ones, operating almost without respect to the prevailing ideologies or ideal goals. While one must recognize such facts, it would be premature to believe that these processes are final and irreversible: we have already surveyed a vast amount of data that demonstrates that, even in cultures far less committed to quantitative growth than our own, there comes a point when the tumorous organ will destroy the organism at whose expense it has reached such swollen dimensions. Meanwhile normal birth, growth, and renewal may elsewhere shift the balance.”

Mumford, Lewis (1961): ‘The city in history-its origins, its transformations, and its prospects’. Harcourt, Brace&World. New York. p. 526-527.

Explain briefly the authors’ points of view, supported by the knowledge extracted from the Los Angeles lecture. Use the rear page for your explanations.


The author’s points of views come up to the same conclusion: It will be naïve to think that a city growth is irreversible.First, Patrick Geddes is rethinking countries border by zooming out on the entire planet. Looking at it from a macroscopic perspective, evolution is what matter the most. History is swallowed, devours, and only survive in Geography book just like the famous “Cow boy “city. On the other hand, Lewis Mumford, is pointing out the overgrowing construction movement. This latest shows the imposing power of globalization and metropolitanization on people lifestyle. The world is moving into the same direction, regardless of cultural, and ideological heritage. History reveal to us that the biggest Empire, unions, or states came to a point of collapse and fade away. LA is known as the “Car city”, however the word is in constant mutation, and technology is increasing at a light speed. Urban Planner plan the city according to infrastructure development and most importantly, according to cars distribution. Fortunately or unfortunately, due to natural resources crisis, the automobile industry will soon become an old fashion concept only remembered threw picture in our history book. Renewal will occur to create balance. What will become of our “Car City”? Therefore, it is essential to think utopian, the city has to be narrative and letting it grow and mutate naturally and technologically is the ultimate type of narrative we can let a city provide us.


City: Sao Paulo | Tools: Urban mobility and Microplanning


As shown during the lecture, tackling the various urban challenges of megacities in the Global South includes a wholistic understanding of all ingredients of urban design. The planning of infrastructure, buildings and open spaces stand in sensitive, interrelated connection. In addition to that, the processes of their (re)functionalization, (de)construction and (re)programmation deserve attention of urban designers. On the picture below we present the overlapping of two different tools which, even characterized by different scales, create in correlation with each other, a very specific urban context. Some questions immediately arise:


  1. Is there a shift in the target group/profile of users from different social groups?
  2. How did it change the public life and lifestyle of the residents?
  3. How does it influence the local economies?
  4. How does it affect the traffic flows and the development of transportation infrastructure?
  1. How does it affect the trends of architecture and landscape project-related activities in the surrounding area?
  1. How does it change urban policies (e.g. informal activites becoming formal ones)?

In order to get  a better understanding of this complex relationship and its influence on the urban forms and processes, please chose four out of the six questions from the list on the left side. Based on the input form the lecture and your own perception, thoughts and imagined scenarios, please try to offer explanations of the chosen questions that will provide a more grounded and extended explanation of the presented case.


The changing of a certain urban context may have several impact on a city. A new urban conception induces a new public life and lifestyle, wish might also influence the local economies. The trend of Architecture and landscape design will reach a hall different level from what we are used to. And as a consequences, urban policies will compete with political views for a better understanding of the society. Four different points for infinite urban possibilities, and the world become a playground.


    To begin, Lets tackle the idea of a completely new public life and lifestyle. The first symptom of this later will be “Timing”. In other word, a new public agenda will be set for hyper connected societies. People won’t spend half of their life in cars anymore, instead more time will be consume walking outside and enjoying every single aspect the city has to display. Urban spaces will have access to human five senses instead of one. A more programmatic city for a programmatic architecture. Metamorphosis of the Concrete jungle to a concrete chameleon organism that get adapted to human need. Children will get the opportunity to play and circulate freely in the vast playground that the city has to offer, providing parents with some recreation time. As a benefit, social interaction will increase while social segregation fade away. At the economical level, small business will get the opportunity to crawl in between pre-founded organisation. Mutable urban square meter switching from one function to the other bringing more cash flow with every single transformation. Artist and Musician will cover the street making publicity to themselves, growing side by side with the emergent chameleon. In addition to that, and knowing that the first infrastructure application that users need is “Access the city”, public transportation will get there fame, moving from one preconceived function to a multidirectional adaptable function. Car Industries will go bankrupt, and an eco-friendly atmosphere will rise bringing a new architectural trend to the market. People, planet, purpose and profit are the building blocks of the successful company of the future.


City: New York | Tool: Horizontal-Vertical Grid

Reading and understanding different urban morphologies, including all advantages and disadvantages is crucial for understanding how a city functions and develops. New York’s specific urban form and its vertical and horizontal properties show the typical grid structure – together with its all positive and negative aspects. In the following case, analyse a very different urban form, the one of Barcelona from Cerda Ildefonso and make a comparison with Midtown Manhattan.

Please identify the following:

  1. Characteristics of each urban form (Urban Structure, Morphology,

Street Hierarchy, Building Typology,  Freedom in verticality vs. Freedom in

Horizontality, open/green spaces etc.)

  1. Advantages and Disadvantages of each urban form.
  2. Name a city with a similiar urban morphology from another continent.


New York has a specific urban form and its vertical and horizontal properties show the typical grid structure.  Also called the “Generic City”, the grid is repetitive and show equality, and democracy. Manhatisme is one urban ideology that believe in density, as it is based for a modern culture. The invention of the elevator and the discovery of steel and glass in architecture construction was crucial to the development this latter. We tend to analyze a city as a block, but the interesting thing will be the dissolving between stable and unstable component. Manhatan is a floor by floor kind of structure in which one floor might provide the citizen with all their needs. There is only skyscraper because the whole island is based on a rock that can support it. Manhatan’s urban form is static but the function change, thus it has to be analyze over the time parameter. For example, one cannot find the same restaurant from one year to the other. Moreover, Central park with its natural topography has an important role in the success of the urban planning. It is a nice gateway in the middle of a concrete forest.

Cerda plan, also called “the Eixample Garden City”, used a grid pattern with 520 street blocks to impose rational order on the city, while accommodating open space, and public transportation.  At the core of Cerda’s master plan was the creation of the manzana – a city block structure that had been meticulously studied and detailed. Originally, each manzana was to be built up on only 2 or 3 sides, with a depth of 20 metres and a height of 16 metres. The length of each side would measure 113.3 metres with a precise area of 12,370m2. In between the 2 or 3 built-up sides a recreational green space would allow for a maximum amount of sunlight and ventilation to penetrate every unit in the manzana while simultaneously providing a green belt for the entire city in all cardinal directions. Major boulevards cut through the pattern at 45 degree chamfer of each corner of the city block. Cerda believed that the steam tram would come to dominate the future of transport in Barcelona, and as such the 45 degree chamfer was designed to accommodate for the tram’s turning radius.

Well, New York is the reincarnation of the word “Paradox” itself. A city that claim something, but tend to be something else. A city that want to provide equality and justice to its citizen, yet removing their individual identity. Manhattan feels like an “extremist” city, always pushing to the limits; building higher skyscraper with an aim to touch the sky. In fact, they are burying people in the dark by creating more shade and less access to sunlight and fresh air. However, Central Park is the biggest successful achievement of Manhattan, since it provide a temporary escape of the city.

However, the idea of the plan was lost during the 1920’s and 1930’s as saved open spaces were used for industrial development. The extensive growth of unplanned developments affected the outskirts of the entire city, and was amplified by the huge influx of immigrant workers.

Surprisingly enough, Even if Cerda’s plan has been apply in the wrong way, Barcelona is still “THE” charming city! It is a city where Pedestrians have precedence while cars are restricted to narrow lanes on either side of the promenade and must accommodate pedestrians at every intersection. Artists, musicians, and magicians  amaze those passing by. People are constantly strolling up and down the promenade at any time of day to catch something new and interesting. This is truly a great public space and is full of life and community. The lesson here is to rethink how we prioritize cars and start accommodating the pedestrian. This is what creates community!


City: Mexico City | Tool: Green Infrastructure Network

The transportation and mobility components of Mexico City’s Plan Verde (Green Plan) agenda, designed to lead the city towards a state of EcoMobility, was launched in 2007. The plan is based on a multi-component strategy to reduce traffic congestion and reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions. The strategy has resulted in a set of programs to improve and expand public transportation systems, as well as offer more cycling and walking options. The Green Plan emphasizes local action, in particular, through initiatives such as the Hoy No Circula (Day Without Car) and Muevete en Bici (Move on Bikes) programs, Eco Bikes, Metrobus, and the expansion of the Metro system.


City name: Beirut/ Lebanon

Strategy name:  Waste to Energy


Lebanon is actually experiencing garbage and electricity crisis. Garbage became an issue since the main recycle company was shut down for many political and economic reasons. In addition to that, Electricity in Lebanon is one of the big problem which the citizens complain about since they are not offered a full 24 hour service of it.


Strategy description:

Combustion of waste has been used as a way of reducing waste volume and neutralizing many of the potentially harmful elements within it. Combustion can only be used to create an energy source when heat recovery is included. Heat recovered from the combustion process can then be used to either power turbines for electricity generation or to provide direct space and water heating. Thermochemical conversion goes into 3 category: incineration, pyrolysis and gasification. The incineration technology is the controlled combustion of waste with the recovery of heat to produce steam which in turn produces power through steam turbines. Pyrolysis and gasification represent refined thermal treatment methods as alternatives to incineration and are characterized by the transformation of the waste into product gas as energy carrier for later combustion.

Your own critical reflection:


Architecture should be solve as a political level first. Scientifically, we can find many solution to  the problem of waste in Lebanon. However, those cannot be implemented due to a complex political crisis.

  1. Find a similar initiative in other cities. Name the city and strategy. Discuss briefly the current problematic. Describe the main components of the chosen strategy and present your own critical reflection.
  2. Glue a representative picture or draw a situation that depicts the intentions and strategies of your chosen development plan.




Applied Urban Strategies is a project of IaaC, Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia developed at Master in Advanced Architecture program in 2015/16 by:

Students: Nour Mezher

Faculty: Alfredo Brillembourg