Following up my last post about Reyner Banham, I would like to re-introduce William Whyte to you. Like Banham, Whyte produced documentaries and wrote books on sociological factors that impact urban environments. Both also based much of their research around observational techniques, that is, on the ground personal observations of how humans interact with their environment. There are many other methods of research, but there is nothing like seeing things on the ground, first hand.
Whyte’s documentary that I have linked below, was one of his most notable. In this short film, Whyte observes social interactions in plazas and parks in Manhattan. The primary subject is the plaza that is in fromt of Mies van der Rohe‘s Seagram’s Tower. This space is very popular for its location near Midtown Manhattan,and also for its size and proximity near the street level.
You may be wondering why I am bringing up these two video’s in back to back posts, since they were created decades ago. Well, what they both still teach us is that humans are creatures of habit in many regards. These habits can be observed, categorized and statistically analyzed. In William Whyte’s research his primary goal was to provide a foundation for the amendment of New York City’s planning ordinance guidelines. For Banham his research was more macro in scale, looking at the distinct settlements within Los Angeles. Over time the inhabitants of LA achieved a stasis of identity, for Banham, there were four clear groups, or ecologies.
For the purpose of my blog, I think that everyone should watch these two videos. These two writers and researchers do excellent jobs of describing complex architectural and urban issues, with respect to design, and they present it simply so that a very broad audience can take something away.
I hope that these two posts express, in multimedia, my intent for sharing my passion for architecture and urban design in an easily comprehensible manner for everyone to learn from.
- The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces (swiss-miss.com)