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Walls/ antiwalls

01 Aug 2016 - By mr.berqstrom
The classic city wall (defencive walls) was outdated with the development of cannons and has been unfashionable since. This can be related to the history of war and its influence on the technological development. Even so, walls has been a traditional architectural element in the urban landscape since the first urban development found place in the middle east approx. year 3500- 3300 BC. This development came as a natural consequence to the Neolithic Revolution in the region. Common for all walls since then, are that they demarcate space by defining a simple ruleset for the flow in the city. The next ruleset (connected to the first) is defined by the openings, doors or gates in the walls and how they connect to other spaces in the city.

A wall does not mean that the boundaries are impermeable, since this will always be a question of force, but for most daily scenarios will the wall (together with its openings) create a structure on how and where people can move in the city. This is true to all kinds of walls, also the walls of a building. Streets together with its buildings can create long corridors, edges controlling the flow in the city landscape. With other words are walls one of the basic elements that makes up a traditional city. Later in history, more specific during modernism, the development of buildings placed upon a forest of columns, became the antithesis to the city corridors, giving freedom to movement on the street- level of the city. An example of this 'antiwall' can be seen on the photo of the Hiroshima Peace memorial museum. The picture shows how the whole building is lifted up on pillars, creating accessible space beneath. 

For the slum- district in a city is it unfortunately little chance that the buildings will be created high up on pillars, leaving the ground level open to the public. This is due to the cost for this type of construction. Political will can do something about this and deal with the slum challenge, turning it into governmental social housing programs, developed in the spirit of modernism, but history has shown that this is a type of development can be afforded by very few societies, particularly with pressure from an exponential growth. Fortunately there is no rule without exception, as China has shown the world how it is possible to lift a "whole" society up to an industrial society standard, in relatively short period of time (fastest in history).

Before starting to dream about future megacities where the whole city is placed upon pillars, leaving the ground- level to the slum, I will bring to your attention a scenario of today, where walls can be considered as a positive element in the city landscape and it's slums, without creating the stereotypical emotions of segregation. With massive urban development in short time, will existing infrastructure struggle to keep up with the demand. For the city administration is it common to see how the backlog of significant planning and execution is increasing. In scenarios like this, is it crucial for the city to take prioritized and decisive decisions for optimization towards the future. The city will have to live with these decisions for decades and even centuries,.

One example where it is necessary to take a grip for "what's to the best for the city and it's slums", is the outskirts of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). The photostory Life and Lines by photographer Debosmita Das, document the life in the slums next to the railroad. The pictures show the danger the people are exposed to. Conditons that could be tremendously changed with a simple, cheap solution where walls/ fences demarcate the space allocated for infrastructure. A solution like this would further improve the infrastructure and prepare for future growth with capacity increase on the Railroad.

The city of Ur - wikipedia.orgWalls, The ruins of Ur, Southern Iraq: Source:
Photo by M.Lubinski from Iraq,/USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 

Antiwalls, Hiroshima Peace Memorial MuseumSource:
Photo by WiiiiCC BY-SA 3.0 

Photo by Debosmita Das
Missing walls, Life and Lines, Kolkata - India; Source:
Photo by Debosmita Das, published first 6 May 2015 in THE PLAID ZEBRA