The Tenth Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectual Design Excellence 2008
Berkeley Prize 2008

Ian Mactavish Proposal

Reclaiming the Social Wall as Architecture

In order to complement my Berkeley Prize proposal and my developing understanding of Architecture as a social art, I would like to attend a conference entitled Open Public Urban Spaces (OPUS2008) to be held in Stavanger, Norway from the 26th-28th of June, 2008. The three-day conference has been arranged by the University of Stavanger and the University of California at Davis in cooperation with the National Association of Norwegian Architects. OPUS2008 will bring together leading architects, planners and researchers to address issues related to open public urban spaces, and how these public spaces might transform the cultural life of cities and towns. The online description of OPUS2008 (available here: http://www.uis.no/samfunn/naeringsliv/konferanser/ opus_2008/) lists the questions that the symposium and design forum will attempt to answer. Many of the posed questions dovetail nicely with my Berkeley Prize submission which, in response to increased cyber-balkanization, calls for a 21st century social wall to reinvent program in a public space by employing architecture as a social art. Some of the queries that I find to be most pertinent are;

· What cultural meaning do open urban spaces represent?

· How do urban spaces function as arenas for cultural activities?

· Are urban spaces open enough? Can they contribute to a more inclusive urban life? If so, how?

· How are open spaces distributed from the core to the fringe of the urban landscape?

· How are urban spaces used? Are they fit for evolving needs and use?

· How can they be more pedestrian oriented/walkable?

· How can they be more stimulating for business and services?

· How can urban spaces enhance and support identity?

· How can urban spaces reflect the expectations of the general public?

In order to tackle these questions, the symposium will host a variety of keynote speakers who will detail historic and contemporary public space projects. To complement the lectures, a hands-on design workshop will be held “to explore their implications for planning and better connecting public open spaces in Stavanger and Sandnes.”

When beginning to search for a conference that would engage the Berkeley Prize prompt of Architecture as a social art, I returned to a text that influenced our Berkeley Prize Essay submission; Cities. Architecture and Society. In this summary of the work produced for the 10th International Architecture Exhibition held in 2006 in Venice, Italy, I find the words of Richard Sennett to be particularly influential. Sennett writes;

A frequent problem with cities is that while they may contain an amazing collection of different people– immigrants, natives, rich and poor– when one looks at the distribution of those communities it is clear that they are rarely overlaid with one another. Each group has found its own territory, which has become very inward turned. There is still a false notion that simply by mixing up different functions or putting different people in the same place they will begin to interact. But the question of how we really get communities to recognize, accept and interact with one another is ultimately one that requires visual thinking. It is a design issue. (Sennett, 2006)

Although it is possible to find urban spaces that have inadvertently managed to become successful loci for societal interaction, rising urban population densities and scarcity of land/resources will require efficient and effective design of public space if cities hope to foster genuine, cross-group social interaction. For Sennett, this drive to create a public realm where people deal with strangers is a “design issue”. Elsewhere in the Cities. Architecture and Society text, Leon Krier notes “the aesthetic quality and socializing power [of public space] are never a result of accident but of a civilizing vision and will. It is not age, but the genetic capacities of the founding principles that ensure the quality of the public space.” I will graduate at the end of April with a degree that has been largely geared towards the theoretical aspects of urban design and city making. In the beginning of July I will begin work at a small architecture firm in Philadelphia where I will be working much more with the “bricks and mortar” side of architecture. The ability to attend the OPUS2008 conference and explore urban public space in Scandinavia during this interim period will serve as a bridge into the professional architectural world where I will be required to fuse my theoretical studies with a genuine understanding of the “genetics” of good public space as identified by Sennett, Krier, and OPUS2008.

Although OPUS2008 only covers three days, I would like to take this opportunity to explore other cities in the area. My ideal trip would be two weeks in length, as I feel that this will be the perfect balance that will allow me to rigorously explore 3 cities and, given the current unfavorable exchange rate, ration the travel fellowship stipend. The three cities that I would like to study are Rotterdam, Oslo, and Stavanger.

I begin with Rotterdam because I have long had a desire to photograph the relationship between the city and its prolific shipping industry, and I would like to see how the city has served as a laboratory for modernist urbanism after having been thoroughly bombed during the Second World War. On a more pragmatic and personal level, my coauthor for the Berkeley Prize Essay Competition will have moved to Rotterdam to begin work with an architecture firm in early June. Although he will not be able to attend OPUS2008 with me, it would be nice to be able to explore this city together with my coauthor, and from a financial angle, to not pay for lodging as he will be able to provide accommodations. Not only will the train ride to Oslo be informative– four days in Oslo will allow me see how this city has been able to integrate technology into classically designed public spaces. At this point, I will head to Stavanger, to attend OPUS2008, having spent the past 10 days studying the social effects of the architecture of public space in the Netherlands and Norway.

Itinerary Trip Duration: 16 days

6/14. Depart: Newark, NJ (EWR) at 6:35 pm on Continental Airlines flight #70 6/15. Arrive: Amsterdam (AMST) at 8:15 am Price, $1,075

6/15 Depart Amsterdam immediately on Regional Rail to Rotterdam. At this point I will begin using my Euro Select Rail Pass, which will also be my pass to Oslo and eventually to Stavanger and back to Amsterdam. Price, $400-500 6/15-6/19. Explore Rotterdam, no hotel/hostel needed.

6/19. Depart Rotterdam on train to Oslo.

6/20. Arrive in Oslo.

6/20-6/24. Explore Oslo and stay in hostel for 4 nights. Price $200

6/25 Depart Oslo on train to Stavenger.

6/25-6/28. OPUS2008

6/28. Depart Stavanger on train to Amsterdam.

6/29. Explore Amsterdam, one night in hostel. Price, $60

6/30. Depart Amsterdam (AMST) on Continental #103 9:20 am. Arrive in Newark (EWR) 11:50 am.

Daily Expenses: 3 meals and Miscellaneous expenses $75 per day. Price, $1,200

Program Fee: Student registration fee is HOK 1,700, or roughly $325.00

Total Cost including plane ticket: $3,360.00 Note on Program Fee: As OPUS2008 is a U.C. Davis event I am wondering if there is any way that I might be able to waive the fee, due to the obvious affiliation between U.C. Berkeley and U.C. Davis.


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Ian Duncan Mactavish, Columbia University, USA; Open Public Urban Spaces 2008 Annual Conference, Stavanger, Norway
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