Tiel - a city between acceleration and relaxation
A design study of plan analysis, cognitive mapping, and strategy.
General social background.
The assignment concerns the issue of what will happen in the physical-spatial system and layout of the urban fabric under the influence of changing social relationships and their corresponding user features. This is an interesting, although certainly not a shallow assignment, in view of the development of society, the free market, and the increasing need of various administrative bodies to deregulate some of their tasks. The ever growing demand of citizens for more self-determination in organising their direct living environment also plays an important role.
Characteristics of the location.
Tiel is a relatively small community with a historical inner city situated on the river Waal. The town lies in an environmentally protected zone (the Betuwe) between the urban conglomerations of the Randstad and the Arnhem-Nijmegen junction. It has no specific significance in regional terms, since there are several towns with similar qualities and features in the vicinity. Nevertheless, in view of the surrounding infrastructure, the position of the town is exceptional. It is surrounded on almost all sides by elements that have direct significance for the higher planning and infrastructural level of scale, yet are of merely indirect relevance to Tiel itself (Waal, Amsterdam-Rhine canal, Betuwe railway line, etc.) The town has developed trapped between these infrastructural lines, and new expansion proposals to the east and west do not seem to indicate a transgression of those boundaries.
Opportunities and possibilities
. Tiel is a town with unprecedented opportunities. There is an abundance of both urban and environmental qualities and the municipal council is very keen on action. In order to realise an effectively functioning public domain with a strong identity, it is necessary to develop a coherent vision on this great potential. Tiel exists like a ‘stop’ between intersecting lines of acceleration; it is an urban concentration in an environmental gradient.
Method of approach and research.
The general theme of the assignment concerns the transformation of landscape and urban patterns; The relationships between time, handling and context are the subject of study and design. The way in which the specific features of the separate levels of scale are visualised depends on the individual chosen aspect or topic. Products from the students primarily originate from the didactic assignment (corresponding to the educational curriculum). Of course, any issues put forward by the municipality also play a role, but it is self-evident that these will be less dominant in the formulation of the individual research and design starting points that form the basis of the various plans.
Motivation and starting points.
The plans represent a set of interesting possibilities and a measure of spontaneity and candour with regard to both the social and the spatial problems of the town. Despite the occasionally mediocre drawings skills and reduction capabilities due to lack of experience, the motives that underpin the plans are well worth further examination. Young, up-to-date people who have set their sights on the future have formulated them.
Design analysis as an instrument.
Elaboration and presentation primarily relate to the ‘form’ component of the designs. When the ‘form’ proposals are reduced to their structural characteristics by means of retrospective processing, a coherent pallet of ideas and spatial-functional interventions emerges, corresponding with the underlying motives. The individual elaborations can subsequently be brought together again within a single diagram, thus producing an overview of the specific elements and areas that are of strategic significance in the whole assortment of interventions and levels of scale.
A physical-spatial element is of strategic significance if its role and position are desirable, necessary and beneficial when regarded from various perspectives and in the light of their functional characteristics. Lines, locations and objects can each hold or obtain a position of strategic importance on the basis of their physical-spatial potential. In general, coherence and interaction are usually the case.
The mental map in a new perspective.
Ask thirty people to denote their user activities in their town of residence on a topographic underlay and a picture will emerge of what this group considers to be essential within the physical-spatial system of this town. This is what the ‘cognitive map’ intends - it is a research method in which the perceptions of a large group of users of a certain area are gathered into a topographical representation. Insight can thus be obtained into:
- (In connection with the physical system) lines of movement, areas that people visit and relate to, and objects/buildings that accommodate public functions;
- (In connection with human behaviour or the mental system) selective perception, recognition and identification with regard to social functioning (i.e. information processing, priorities, and efficiency);
- And along with these, the corresponding universally applicable principles of orientation.
Accessibility and use.
Use of the urban area is not value-free. Although, in principle, the public domain is universally accessible, it is not utilised to the same extent and the same way by every single individual. Differences occur not merely due to selective functional distinction, but also primarily due to differences in social status and accessibility in a mental sense. In addition to the previously mentioned elements, a cognitive map of a city also visualises:
- The social relationships between the distinctive sections of the population;
- The areas or objects that are (becoming) isolated;
- The features of social and spatial hierarchy that is present within the boundaries of the city;
- The physical-spatial elements and/or areas that are or may become strategically important.
This means that relationships and connections and the degree of accessibility, both mental and physical, are essential preconditions for the convergence of location and action, of form and function. This process of convergence can be regarded as the core assignment of the urban designer.
With their starting points and motives, followed by the subsequent linkage to locations and interventions (the design proposals), the students have created a cognitive map of the future Tiel, in which the currently latent physical-spatial potential represents itself as a possible reality.
Physical spatial strategy.
We reduced all the plans to separate aspects depicted in Red, green, blue and grey. The resulting data are projected on the topographical underlay, so that the design interventions presented by each individual proposal are compiled to form a coherent setting with regard to the location (area/domain), time (relate ion/structure) and action (function).
: - Presenting the 'Linge as a main urban and recreational zone. Green
: - Tiel as major recreational centre,- Recreational routes on the historical diek-traces, - 'New Landscape' initiated by restructuring and redifening. Red:
- Additional (low and high) densitie 1) Vila's (clusters) in the forest, 2) Pole-houses in the open meadows, 3) Patio-houses in the orchards. Grey:
- Recreational routes on original dike traces,- Accessebility of tiel
- The inundation canal as 'backboen' in the transition between town/landscape & centre/'Passawaay'area. Green:
- An environmantal contrast along the inundation canal trough clear bounderies and transition zones,- A centrally located 'canal crossing' park. Red:
- Additional building along the inudation canal and surrounding the new central park (building blocks & towers), - 'Canal crossing' cultural and recreation facilities. Grey:
- Diversion of the main 'Passawaay' connection along the quay of the inundation canal,- Route along the inundation canal as new representative entrance to the city centre.
Examples of schematised student plans]
Opportunities and interventions.
The final processing provides insight into the strategic importance of each individual intervention by literally visualising the overlap of the position and significance in the various design proposals. Lines, areas and/or objects that can be distilled in this way from the assortment of plans are of great importance to any transformation of the urban fabric, because they apparently fulfil a key position.
The physical - spatial and strategic features of the separate layers.
Red: buildings for housing and related urban facilities.
The proposed constructional interventions concentrate in an east-west band parallel to the railway line (1), and in a south-north band from the ‘Waal’ (2) via the inner city (3) and the ‘Doode Linge’(4) into the open ‘Linge’(5) landscape north of the motorway. A transition area with an exceptional position, a pivotal link, emerges just above the city centre where these two movements intersect (6). Furthermore, pleas are made for both the condensation, for the renewal of the old defensive structure (7) along the ‘Waal’ by means of construction in a characteristic style, for the reinforcement of urban character along the access road (8) to the centre, along the ‘Doode Linge’ and the radials bij means of facades that furnish a more closed appearance, for a functional centre of gravity at the pivotal point, and for a central park area in the railway (9) area with object-oriented development. The valley of the ‘Linge’ will become a low-density rural residential area. Another topic of special interest is the emphasis on existing civil-technical elements, such as the lock on the ‘Amsterdam-Rhine Canal’ (10) and the route along the ‘Waal’ dike (11), by the development of apartment blocks and artificial mounds as objects/landmarks. The inundation canal (12) links the existing city, the expansion, and the surrounding landscape.
Compound layer RED (building on behalf of dwelling and related urban facilities)
Green: landscape, nature and recreation.
The historical link between the Waal, with its river dikes and flood plains, and the (Doode) Linge functions as a framework for new lines of connection. The proposed environmental condensation areas result in a series of elements in an east-west direction (13), thus creating a north-south gradient within the urban area. The most important motion through this gradient is a structure-determining regional route (14). Through the reinforcement and reconstruction of existing physical features the lines of connection, particularly the historical routes, can function as a reference to the position and significance in the landscape as a whole.
Compound layer GREEN (landscape, nature and recreation)
New water surfaces / retention areas (15) and the reconstruction of the (Doode) Linge are the basis of a structural system of identity-bearing connections. In this system, the Waal, the Linge, the Amsterdam-Rhine canal and the inundation canal of the ‘Hollandse Waterlinie (16) (Dutch Water Defence line) all play a prominent role. The (Doode) Linge becomes an important constituent with an environmental identity. The area required to realise this is filled in as a ‘transparent’ urban transition zone.