PROJECT "LOW-RISE PLANET"


 MEASURE IN URBAN GEOGRAPHY

 

Download this video: (120322_lrp_eng.avi — 498 Mb).


 

      The practical results that the continuous human history has brought could make one believe that balanced and sustainable human existence on Earth is impossible, that it contradicts the very essence of things. Because life on other planets, such as Mars or Saturn, is objectively not feasible, it is our direct obligation today to correct the mistakes that have been made in the general arrangement of life on Earth.

The spread of numerous diseases, social and environmental disasters are often presented by various pseudo-scientists as the logical consequences of overpopulation.

In order to understand the true scale of the overpopulation problem, imagine that all the people from the entire world have been brought into one place (as to the end of two thousand eleven, this number roughly equals seven billion people). Let’s assume that we have two persons per square meter, which is a little more space than being on a subway train during a typical rush-hour or on an overcrowded stadium during a football match.

When put together, the human population would be taking up a square area with a fifty-nine kilometer side length. In order to visualize the area, let’s superimpose it onto the map of Moscow (the area is indicated with a red line in the picture). Now you can see how relatively little space is actually needed to fit everyone. If we take only the population of Russia and follow a similar procedure, we will find out that it would fit in a square with an eight-kilometer side length (it is indicated with green).

On a global-scale map, this square is barely visible.

 

Having done this simple mental experiment, we can see the true significance of the so called overpopulation problem.

Of course, people would not be able to live at that density. Everyone needs enough space to move around, to sustain their health and proper hygiene, to have a home, adequate nutrition and sanitation, a place where they could work in order to disclose and apply their intellectual and creative potential, and so on. Now that we see that there is enough space for everyone living now and in the years ahead, we need to find out: What is the most sensible way to disperse people over the area? How to arrange their living? How to delimitate their native land, so that it never feels overcrowded?

We could assume that a lay-out of a settlement is actually a 2D projection of the lifestyle of its inhabitants. It directly reflects the ideals and priorities of the given society, its morals and the behavioral logic, the nature of their needs, and, what’s crucial, the general culture of social management with all its flaws and irregularities.

Metropolis urbanization is an example of how the settlement process has been managed historically; it is, in fact, the figurative expression of the process. The seeming diversity of the metropolis urbanization around the world is superficial, while the true nature of the process is fairly similar in all places. It is characterized by overpopulation problems in urban centers, declining health, increase of accident rates, and so on.

Before, village was the dominant type of a settlement and most cities grew out of villages. Because the spacious organization of a village does not assume any limits to growth, it later became the basis for extensive territory expansion. As a result, what used to be easily accessible in a village (schools, hospitals, stores, etc.) was being moved farther and farther apart. To cover the new distances, new roads were built and broadened taking space from residential areas.

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In the past, the main reason people escaped the countryside in favor of cities was the dictatorship of church. In order to acquire more spiritual freedom, to avoid the pressure of idealistic atheism, people headed to cities. However, as urban dwellers, they encountered another type of pressure: usury, which was also abusive but at a different level. Usury in urban centers, in its turn, gave rise to an absolutely unnatural phenomenon – daily migration of labor: in the morning there is an inflow from the outskirts towards the city center, while in the evening an outflow in the opposite direction takes place. It is like a type of gravitation peculiar to large cities. Similarly to the Moon, it gives rise to the tidal waves of human resources.

Concurrently with the process of urbanization, its opposite has also been gaining momentum, namely, de-urbanization. Every major city keeps accumulating green rings of cottages and land plots that are being shifted outwards by expanding urban limits. People feel how unnatural life in a city is and strive to spend more time outdoors in a natural setting. Because the process of de-urbanization is taking place chaotically, it becomes just a suburban modification of the metropolis urbanization, instead of becoming an effective alternative. The tiny dacha land plots are not sufficient for a healthy, fulfilled life and, instead, serve as short-time weekend destinations for their owners.

In this situation, we believe that landscape-estate urbanization is a comprehensive alternative to both urban and suburban types of urbanization.

In the landscape-estate approach, a family is seen as the most meaningful social institute, just like a seed, from which the society grows. Therefore, designing and building homes for families should be among the top priorities in the vector of goals in state management.

 

If we look into the hidden meaning of the Russian word “semya”, which means “family”, we will see that it can be read as “seven selves ”. Who are these seven selves? In our understanding, a full family should be comprised of seven members: the married couple, their parents from both sides, and one child, as a minimum. In other words, a complete family consists of a child, its parents, and its grandparents from both ancestral lines. Hence, when designing a home for a family, one should take into account its size and needs. Children should be raised in contact with nature and not in concrete blocks of skyscrapers at large heights.

With that understanding of a family, an acceptable low-rise house should have a base of at least 10 x 10 meters. It is most sensible to use natural, environmentally and health-friendly materials for construction with a minimal use of polymeric and artificial elements.

A family house and the adjacent land plot represent a single indivisible unit and together comprise an estate.

The appropriate size of the land plot depends on the number of family members, with a minimal measure of three hundred square meters per person. This correlation between land area and the number of family members provides sufficient conditions for healthy growth and development. With that proportion in mind, we can calculate the minimal size of a family land plot, which equals twenty five hundred square meters.

Now let’s discuss the appropriate shape of the land plot. For the settlement model shown in this video, we have chosen trapezium-shaped plots. What are the advantages of this shape? Or is it just an aesthetical whim?

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 First of all, a trapezium is among least overwrought shapes in a sense that it would cause fewer troubles when the plan is transferred to a particular geographic area. It means that for a land surveyor, it would not be more difficult than a simple rectangle because a trapezium consists of two triangles, which is a basic shape used in land surveys. A trapezium shape is similar enough to rectangles that are familiar enough to engineers as well as to future owners of the estate. A trapezium, unlike rectangles, strives for diversity in spatial self-organization and, as a result, forms more lively and diverse curved patterns.

Thus, when trapezium-shaped land plots are used, various curved forms become the flexible basis of neighborhood patterns in low-rise settlements. We call it the plastic matrix of trapezium. It means that when we juxtapose the plots, the trapezium shape itself encourages the emergence of more lively silhouettes of streets and neighborhoods within a settlement, than a simple rectangle. If we orient the wider side of some trapeziums towards the circle center, we can indirectly manage the radius of the resulting shape. Using the same method, we could get a radius with a changing curvature.

Land plots should be put together not immediately adjacent to each other but with a buffer belt of trees and bushes ten to fifteen meters wide. These buffer belts also do not close up tightly but at a ten to twenty meter distance from each other.

 

The most sensible size of a settlement is such that one could walk the distance from the farthest point of the settlement to the center within twenty five to thirty minutes. With that, if an average speed of a walk is three to five kilometers per hour, then the optimal size of the settlement diameter is within three to three and a half kilometers, which comprises an area of a thousand to fifteen hundred hectares. The population size should not exceed more than twenty five hundred to three thousand inhabitants, so that everyone could personally know and fully interact with at least a third part of the population. The rest of the people one could know via indirect acquaintances.

In order to prevent excessive growth into urban monsters, the settlement plan and its structure should contain an algorithm that would prevent limitless growth and preserve the proportion between the areas of human activity and natural habitats. We want to avoid re-creating the flawed dichotomy of a “city” and “a place for rest”. It means that nature should become an integral component of a settlement, as opposed to the current situation, in which one can reach nature only outside the city limits.

For a low-rise settlement to contain built-in limits to potential growth, we have used a hexagon-shaped settlement model. Along with the well-known features of a hexagon, such as maximal stability and firmness, multiple symmetry, universality, a hexagon also takes the middle ground between the absolute “roundness” of a circle and the “angularity” of a rectangle. It means that a prism equally contains the potential of a circle and of rectangular figures. However, with all that, a hexagon does not have a built-in limit to excessive growth. In other words, if we take a hexagon in its pure form as a basis for the pattern, it won’t be any different from a rectangle in its craving for limitless growth on a surface. Therefore, we need to breathe life into it, make the internal design dynamic. For that purpose, we made the following modification.

In nature on our planet and in the entire universe, spiral forms dominate. Their dynamics are based on the golden ratio. Numerous examples of golden ratio patterns have already been described and can be found on the Internet.

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Now let’s try to combine these two principles: the static nature of a hexagon and the dynamics of a spiral. To draw a classic hexagon in 2D, we would first take a segment; then we would draw another segment attached to the first one at a sixty degree angle. Following this procedure, in six steps, we would have a closed rectilinear hexagon. When building a dynamic hexagon, we would follow the same procedure but increasing the length of each of the next segments by a portion calculated from the golden ratio. As a result, we get a dynamic hexagon in a form of a perpetual spiral that grows from the golden ratio seed.

A green corridor should be planted along the axis of the spiral with its width being expanded in accordance with the golden ratio on every following segment. In the end, we get enough forestland for each sector of the settlement. It’s a solution to the problem of balance between living areas and the amount of forestland. Any construction work should be prohibited in these green corridors; they are meant to serve as the environmental buffer for a sustainable settlement.

A low-rise settlement of the landscape-estate type should have both the comfort of a city and the proximity to nature. It should be an organization of life of a new quality. Of course, the settlement should have good roads, electricity, heating, high-speed Internet, mobile communications, and so on.

 

Settlements should have their own kindergartens, schools, universities, libraries, concert halls, and culture centers, storehouses, shared parking areas, administrative buildings as well as enterprises and factories that would provide jobs for the people living in the settlement. Only in this case, will the settlements be fully sustainable.

We are deeply convinced that people should live on their own land in low-rise houses surrounded by nature and not in absurd ferroconcrete building blocks. But at the same time, we understand that the landscape-estate urbanization is not a magic recipe or a panacea against the social and biosphere crisis. No one can guarantee that we won’t become a “righteous communal-life society comprised of villains”. The new life won’t come by itself: today, like before, as the Bible puts it, the Kingdom of God on Earth is open for everyone who can enter it with their own efforts, during their lifetime. Without that, even a perfect, absolutely environmentally friendly house can’t prevent disorderliness and misery at local and global levels alike.

We also believe that the best stimulus for work is a personal example. That’s why we took paper and pencils and started creating sketches and notes that have later become the model of landscape-estate urbanization introduced in this video. We will continue designing other settlement models following these principles. It is the minimal plan for our creative team. The maximal plan is the transformation of our planet into a blooming garden through building landscape-estate settlements in reality.

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Выражаем особую благодарность всем нашим товарищам, кто принимал участие в подготовке перевода и озвучивании английской версии видеоролика!

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Яндекс.Метрика