Saturday, July 7, 2012

Urban pedestrian projects

Walking Paris day after day gives an opportunity to acquire a deeper familiarity with the city. It takes a long time to get to know a street, and, even without paying attention to the people, I can walk it many times without exhausting its riches. Here are some of the angles that the wandering mind sometimes takes, depending on the day's mood. I have a feeling that they bear the mark of a scientific training, and that a, say, literature major, walking along the same streets and looking at the same buildings, would see completely different things.

Inside and outside plans. Infer the internal organization of a building from the outside setup of doors and windows. Where is the staircase? How many apartments are there? Where are the separations between apartments? Much of the building plan can be guessed from examining the disposition of the windows.

Ceiling heights. It happens that adjacent buildings have the same height yet a different number of floors: one has 7 floors, the one next to it has 8 floors, yet their roofs are lines up. Why? Because the floors have different heights. Correlate floor height to the age of the buildings.

Symmetry and near-symmetry. Find perfectly symmetrical patterns. Find patterns that are not symmetrical. Why not? Are those departures from perfect symmetry accidental or voluntary? Example: The central column of Notre Dame's facade, the tip of the roof behind it, and the tall steeple in the back, are not quite lined up, thus missing an opportunity for pleasing symmetry.

1 comment:

  1. Love the phrase "the disposition of the windows"