Saturday, May 8, 2010

Streets in the Sky

What I am about to write is a massive simplification of a big issue. Nuance will be lost.

Streets in the Sky was an idea of reconstructing streets away from the noise, pollution and conflict of the vehicular street. It was recognized that streets are more than merely spaces for vehicles (an idea many motorists in Sydney would not agree with), but are also public spaces for social interaction. Assuming that vehicular traffic is a hinderance to social interaction - why not rebuild the street in the fresh air above the old, polluted, congested streets?

Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation projects have a shopping street midway up the building and a garden (and childcare centre?) on the roof. These are the earliest examples of this idea I can think of.

A number of housing projects were constructed in post-war Britain using this idea. A quick googlesearch will reveal alot of information (some dodgy, so use judgement). Projects included Park Hill in Sheffield and Robin Hood Gardens in London. The latter was by Alison and Peter Smithson whose Golden Lane Project is illustrated below.

In these projects apartments were accessed by open corridors down running the side of the building. Each corridor would often provide access to 3 levels of apartments, inspired by the organization strategy of Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation projects.

Ideally, these corridors would be well lit, well ventilated and wide enough that they would function as footpaths, front yards, play areas and social spaces.

They often did not work quite like this, becoming spaces for anti-social behavior (see almost any episode of The Bill).

They have been much criticized in the last 30 years.

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