Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Valencia, Spain

The first in hopefully a long and comprehensive series of Case Studies brought to you by the wonderful world of Google Earth and Microsoft Maps.

The first will be Valencia, Spain, aka "my favorite place that I've never actually been to and will pretend to be in expert in all things Valencia because I've been to the Costa Del Sol and Madrid." In actuality though, I have spent countless hours going thru imagery, aerials, and satellite photos, seemingly block by block of the City to learn or be inspired from it and all it has to teach.

I've come to the conclusion that Valencia has evolved naturally into the way cities of the future will need to reorganize.

There are a ton of images to follow, so hopefully I can keep this somewhat organized...

The aerial view of pretty much the entire city, except for a few stray outlying suburban/exurban areas.

When you look closely (and as I've crudely and quickly highlighted in photoshop) is the farmland that creeps towards the city center, not coincidentally like a dendritic stream-like pattern, because the ag land is correlated with the lowland drainage areas for irrigation in a dry climate.
This is important as the concept of food miles becomes more important. Eventually, you won't be able to dress that 3,000 mile caesar salad in oil.

This map shows the rail lines into and thru the City. The Metro line is indicated by the lines with red dots as metro stops. You can see the metro is regionally biased towards the Northern sector of the city where it is nearly all residential. Heavier rail comes in from the South and West where Industrial areas lie.

Speaking of industrial areas chickity check it out. This is the suburban town of Silla, similar to any of the other southern industrial towns outside of Valencia. It is connected to the regional highway system and the heavy rail line runs right between the industrial zone and the town, the station serving as the hub or nexus between the two. Regional rail brings in material and resources to these outlying hubs, which are then trucked into the city and more specific destinations, very efficient and logical delivery system. We could learn a few things.
Also, note the proximity to agriculture.

A look at another, Catarroja, along the same rail/highway corridor, but in closer and hence its greater size and density. It's important to note that none of the industrial zones get so large as to become a detriment to other land uses while being within a certain and reasonable proximity to housing. jobs/housing balance for each town as well as short commutes.

Bird's Eye view of the industrial zone. Note that it retains urban form and density. Great stuff.

Now to the more glamorous stuff, the Center City. Highlighted in green is the main river corridor through the city. As you can see, it has been mostly covered up as it goes thru the most dense area, very urban, to the extreme. The City uses this land for its parks, both active and passive, i.e. botanical gardens, as well as locations for its cultural facilities and iconic structures.
Very cool organizational device.
Furthermore the river pokes its nose out here and there as an amenity while providing irrigation and flood control as well.
This is the opera house. More images here. Many people think I may be a crank when it comes to "object" architecture, but I'm not. It has a place, but it must be part of a larger urban design strategy to best showcase it. As opposed to the Dallas Arts District, aka ToonTown, which I will rip endlessly eventually.

Here is an image of the park where the river enters the city and goes underground. As with the rest of the imagery, touch it to make it bigger. You can see the other drainage basin below which loops to the south of downtown, is primarily functional as flood control device. It is mostly a dry arroyo except for the first mile or so in from the coast.

As for the organization of the city, my favorite little cheat sheet, the blue dots of uploaded photographs shows what we're looking for, following the curve of the river with a North-South axis of the heart of the city intersecting it. This is the oldest part of the city with the two most important plazas, culturally, spatially, architecturally, historically, you name it: Plaza de la Reina and Plaza de Ayunamiento

Now let's get down in that space:

Ignore the big roads that circumnavigate Ayuntamiento and focus on the pretty buildings...

Here you can you see Ayuntamiento, the typical Spanish blocks, similar to Barcelona with the repetitive scale and corner clips, then intersecting with the river.

Here is a bird's eye of those blocks, but some of them have been broken down into more intimate urbanism, let's get down into those spaces...

Seems like a pleasant place to hang out, have a meal...

The city also has its thoroughfares, sometimes that cut right thru the regular block pattern as shown in the most immediate aerial map above, also similar to Avenida Gaudi in Barcelona. The boulevards are still designed with people space in mind. The central median is large enough for usable green space as are the sidewalks. Note, only two full-time travel lanes for one of the major city thoroughfares.

Here is some of the newer development to the Northern edge of the city. Note the emphasis remains on form and framing the public realm in front, creating private pool courtyards behind, the same way we do things today. Also note the metro line that runs thru the traffic circle.

Bird's eye of same development.

Now let's get back out to the can live in low density exurbs...I wish I could find the name of this one again, but there are many of these clusters to the West and Northwest of the City. Most of these clusters are on metro lines, and they are all about the same size, about a 1/2 mile radius around the Metro stops. Nobody had to come up with a formula, they just reacted based on needs. Human nature at work. Brilliant.

An example of one of the suburbs...
Here is another great image that shows a complete transect from low density housing in the hills to the bottow left and how it transitions into greater and greater density towards Valencia and the metro line. The full range of housing choices are available and in appropriate supply based on need and income. No awful tract housing. No development based strictly on an overly simplistic economic equation. People built homes within places worth living in. Why don't we get this concept?
I forgot. It isn't mass produced and thus, cheap.

As opposed to the cheap tract housing image at the link above, this suburb will live longer than you and me.

Now for the bad stuff, above and below. These look a-ok in plan. Now let's look at the aerial. First note, no blue dots...I'm worried...hold me.

ACK!! Towers in the park. Is this Pruit-Igoe? Cabrini Green? Queensbridge? Nope, just Le Corbusier's local gift to urban planning. If these aren't slums yet, they will be as they are like flames to low-income moths. Too much agglomeration of poverty in one place and you get bad areas. Disperse it amongst higher end housing.
Now let's end this on a happy note...the Valencia coast...

Ahhhh, the beach...if only Dallas had one...I'd be there. Rather than staying late to write this.