Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A City of Maximized Efficiency

What happens if we were to create an algorithm that tries to perfectly balance three things:
  1. Maximized efficiency and flexibility in the movement network by minimizing turns to get everywhere in the hypothetical city (this is essentially an elaboration on the concept of the linear city first espoused by Arturo Soria y Mata in the late 19th century.  Instead, though it adds a layer understanding that one corridor is inefficient and maintains the necessary lattice network).  You can't everywhere with only one turn maximum.
  2. Maximized building efficiency.  Round means less surface area to building square footage ratio (along the lines of efficiency of scale in the previous post).  
  3. A balance between space for movement (public realm and infrastructure) and space for use (buildings).  Below shows a theoretical figure ground with black as buildings, lines as roads, and white as "leftover" or open space.




Quick computer-aided and imperfect sketch showing the result.  It would actually be more orderly, regular, and uniform if I took the time to input the geometries appropriately.  As if designed by computer.  It would start to look a bit more like a honeycomb lattice.  And somehow, by pursuing a simple goal of maximum efficiency, everything becomes just a bit too perfect.  Too "planned."  We like the irregular just as much as the irregular.  Everything in moderation.  Even and especially moderation.

Here are some other figure ground maps to get used to looking at cities as solids and voids:

Rome


DC


Some dreadful place that two highways and the interchange tore apart.  This is a city with only one maximized efficiency, car movement.


Addendum:
When you start to add more layers of "maximized efficiency," or everything else competing and cooperating within cities, you start to get something closer to the traditional city as detailed in Michael Mehaffy's post.

Note:  When I say traditional, I'm not talking about subjective, superficial architectural styles, but rather the vertical and horizontal arrangement of elements within cities and the interaction between them.