Category Archives: Urban Development

Urban Planning: the future – special reference to Sri Lanka by Ashley de Vos – Part 3

Sri Lanka and the Urban Environment

There is a need to preserve the historical and important parts of the City. The conserved buildings should project the evolution of the City and its historicity. Like a old beautiful grandmother. The wrinkles on her face is an integral part of her personality, it gives her character and her due place and stature in society. She is not for sale. Gentrification is not the answer to the development of the city Continue reading Urban Planning: the future – special reference to Sri Lanka by Ashley de Vos – Part 3

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Urban Planning: the future – special reference to Sri Lanka by Ashley de Vos – Part 2

“The new still follows the old traditions creating a holistic entity. The result is the achievement of a functional and harmonious architecture suited to the life of the Yemeni people. However, when alien techniques and materials are introduced, there are several effects. With imported materials, a large proportion of the cost goes into the pockets of a few contractors, with only about 25% remaining in the district. If local communities are to participate in self-help for construction, money must be spent locally, on local materials and labour. In addition, imported building methods usually prove to be unsuited to the climate, because the walls and roofs are not heavy enough.”
– Derick Matthews

Yemen

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The Traditional Architecture of Yemen – Yemeni people have inherited building skills since ancient times, and construction seems to be in their life-blood. The county’s architectural history is strongly tied both to its traditions and locally available construction materials Continue reading Urban Planning: the future – special reference to Sri Lanka by Ashley de Vos – Part 2

Urban Planning: the future – special reference to Sri Lanka by Ashley de Vos

Urban Planning: the future
special reference to Sri Lanka
Ashley de Vos

Part One

Jane Jacobs in her book “Dark Ages Ahead” talks about the end of culture, especially the way we live it today. Picture books do not protect the loss of a culture. The printed media is incapable of passing down a culture. It has to be experienced, it has to be lived. Hence the importance of vibrant communities to carry the culture forward.

We have forgotten that cities were created for people and not for the motor vehicle. Today we have completely forgotten the reason why cities exist and are changing our cities to fit the vehicle. The vehicle was never scaled to the requirement of the city. If they were, they would have been very small and highly efficient. Public transport not cars is the solution, for efficient movement of people, the tram, the bus and now rapid transport systems are rising to the real needs of the city. Foot walks should be people friendly and especially in the tropics well shaded to avoid them becoming heat soaks.

The gentrification of our cities, is a sure indication that society is on the decline. It leaves many people, especially the communities, the preservers and the repositories of the cultural matrix helpless and disorientated.
Jeff Rubin in the “End of Growth” argues that ‘the present concept of world growth is dictated by the price of oil and with the increased cost of exploitation and inherent increases in cost, development as we know it would grind to a halt. The growth cycle is receding and the world is in recession. This will effect everything we do’. Of course, unless we continue to wage wars, killing thousands of innocents, to get our hands on cheap sources of oil.

Population growth is the result of the economic expansion in the past decades and the only sustainable solution today is in the lowering of this demand for energy. A study done in the Netherlands about ten years ago concluded that a minimum 80% drop in the standard of living was required to bring all in line with the best in the developing world. Even though the environment and economy is inextricably connected and should be treated as such, the sociopolitical landscape sees it differently. In “Everything under the sun” David Suzuki refers to ‘geo-engineering as the height of our arrogance, we are using hydrocarbons to produce carbohydrates’. Is the human species well on its way to extinction ?, at this rate yes.

The high rise building is an expression conceived during the era of cheap oil, and is still seen by some as the solution for all our ills. In some countries they are demolishing their tall building as they are designated as sick buildings, as failures. While in others the herd instinct prevails. Is this new expressive gimmick driven trend evidence of the end of a culture or a revelation that no culture ever existed. Continue reading Urban Planning: the future – special reference to Sri Lanka by Ashley de Vos

Part Two- Public Discussion, The Urban Landscape : Should We Ape the West? By Ashley de Vos

Part Two – Public Discussion
The Urban Landscape : Should We Ape the West?
A public lecture

By Ashley de Vos
Dip. (Arch.), FIA (SL)

AshleyDeVos_Disc

Architecture is the process of building well, taking into account Culture, History, tradition, place, location, orientation, human needs and use, building layout, proportion, the solid to void relationship, use of materials, shading, thermal mass and comfort, ventilation, etc. Good building is not dictated by style or fashion, it has a timeless quality and this quality usually defines architecture.

Countries with strong and deep cultural roots, including traditional societies understood and used the process of ecological design in a holistic manner. A greater understanding of the traditional mind would facilitate a methodology to guide the contemporary builder and his building. A need to copy what others do is not a solution or an end, but a beginning of destruction. Copycat urban development’s and office parks end up as ghettos, devoid of life after working hours and at weekends.

Many of us have already forgotten that cities were created for people. We have completely forgotten the reason why cities exist and are changing our cities to fit the vehicle. This metal monster was never scaled to the requirements of the city. The gentrification of our cities is a sure indication that society is on the decline. It leaves many people especially the communities, the preservers and the repositories of the cultural matrix disorientated and helpless.

The high rise building is an expression conceived during the era of cheap oil and is still seen by some as the solution for all ills. The infrastructure requirements and maintenance is usually not considered. All public buildings, especially as they are constructed using public funds should always reflect a strong cultural context, a sense of place. They should grow out of, and belong to Sri Lanka and not be clones of bad buildings constructed elsewhere in the world. Is this new expressive gimmick driven trend, evidence of the end of culture or a revelation that no culture ever existed.

Part Two

Listen to the full public discussion here: youtube

Part One

Listen to the full lecture here: youtube

The lecture and discussion was held on Monday 29th August 2014 at 5.00 p.m. at the
Gamini Dissanayake Auditorium, No. 96, Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha, Colombo 07 and was organised by the Royal Asiatic Society Sri Lanka.