The theme of congress, port-city animation, invited from the beginning to have a holistic approach, considering different perspectives, from academia to practitioners, from municipalities to port authorities.
The same week before the congress, we had the opportunity to discuss the most innovative practices in terms of social interaction between ports and citizens, during the 4th meeting of the Port Center Network. This tool, empowered by the AIVP, has evolved from simple explanation centers, with the typical port model and ancient images, to interactive platforms where the local residents can actually play a more active role in the port clusters and planning. We saw innovative examples from private companies, such as Contship, education and cultural institutions, like the STC from Rotterdam. Also Port Authorities participated, such as Livorno and Marseille, explaining the development process of a Port Center in the different scales and strategies. Urban agglomerations, like Lorient, proposes first to establish a local network and only after to consider a physical location and the associated investment. All these approaches contribute to enhance and clarify the role of the port in society, explain their importance and give disclosure to aspects that often remain hidden, only seeing the light for the most negative reasons. The local inhabitants, either port neighbors or city residents, sooner or later will become involved in the port development process, being either participants in the externalities, or, worse case scenario, players in NIMBY phenomenon. It has been proved that it is better to prevent than to fight, to avoid the conflict, to bring them inside the planning process, and find common strategies. It is important that the peopled feel as part of the solution, not of the problem.
During the congress we were able to see the combination of different strategies, from more traditional perspectives, to others more innovative. The keynote presentation, by landscape architects Michel Desvigne and Inessa Hansch, introduced their project for Le Havre’s waterfront, that tries to establish a new contact with from the street to the port. One of the key features of their design is flexibility. It is achieved by creating a new simple public space where temporary facilities and events can be made. In their presentation they introduced an important concept, that of port beauty, and how challenging it is to share it.
The following round table brought representative from different European cases, with different backgrounds. We could see initiatives from Genoa – Porto Antico, Rotterdam STC, and Dublin Port Authority (DPA). One relevant detail is the fact that, with the exception of Dublin, the other organizations were not the usual players in the port-city animation, showing the different paths that can be taken to increase citizens presence on the waterfront and provide them a more complete image of the port.
Mr. O’Reilly, from DPA, highlighted a relevant point, that two realities were being discussed. On the one hand, the animation of regenerated waterfront locations that historically hosted port activities, e.g Genoa Port Antico. On the other the challenge of developing a sustainable social relationship with the active port, such as what happens in Marseille Bassin Est, Lisbon or in Dublin itself. The core issue is the possible combination of both strategies.
In academia the descriptive geographic model developed by Bird, Hoyle and others, describes the separation process and port exodus from central historical waterfront location. Although this model has been broadly accepted, it can also be discussed. Waterfront regeneration projects, as the ones presented by the keynote speakers of Le Havre, the one from Las Palmas, or Quebec, still do take place. However, as more restrictive environmental legislation and ecological public conscience is developed, blue and green field port development will probably find stronger opposition and limitation. As said in other publications, port retrofitting is an alternative to consider. This strategy raises the problem of peaceful coexistence and the acceptance of certain port landscapes within urban tissues. Further on, the ISPS code presents additional challenges regarding the port-city-citizen interaction. However, the code has existed since 2001, giving enough time for creative solutions to be developed, as it was indicated by Mr. Renaud Paubelle, from the GPM of Marseille, mentioning the Terrasses du Port project in the same city.
Port retrofitting can be seen in some cases aforementioned. Although challenging , it might be the most sustainable alternative when we consider the global scale. The fact of being “under surveillance” of the public eye forces companies and institutions to innovate taking advantage of new technologies that are already available. During the conference, examples of this technology were discussed, such as the ships that are able to produce more energy than the one they consume, the electrified docks, providing power to the ships avoiding fossil fuels, or the use of LNG on cruise ships. These advances require initial investment to later produce economical benefits. In cities is where port companies will feel the pressure to implement these innovations, that later will also benefit them.
In order to achieve what is commonly known as the (Social) License to Operate (LTO), ports have to use all available resources. The simple hard figures expressing the economic impact in terms of employment or turnaround traffic are not enough. As Mr. O’Reilly mentioned, Soft Values (Van Hooydonk, 2007) have to be explored. The
associated cultural and social elements, explained by Hein, that ports used to produce as unplanned externalities provide an opportunity to explain the port and other positive, often intangible, values, such as port-city identity. This concept, studied mainly in the academic world, is key for a sustainable port-city relationship. If Lynch (1960) once was able to define the image of the city and how people absorb information in the urban environment, our challenge is the definition of the image of the port-city, a task to which all stakeholders can and must contribute. In this sense social sciences are one of the key paths, as pointed out by Hein, where innovations can be made, also to inspire and set the course for institutional change and later concrete actions in each port-city.
If we use Soft-Values, we have to consider unquantifiable elements such as “port beauty” as mentioned by the keynote speaker, Mr. Michel Desvigne. Although “beauty” can be considered a subjective element, it is undeniable that even modern ports are able to have a certain fascination beyond logistic or economic values. This is a key element, combined with extensive socio-economical projects that involve the community and spread out through the entire port-city, including all kinds of actors, from private companies to educational college such as what we saw in Barcelona´s maritime cluster or Rotterdam STC.
To conclude, two remarks. The first one refers to the composition of the audience. The presence of delegates from very different geographical regions highlights one particular characteristic of the port-maritime world. Although it is one of the pillars of globalization, with private actors and organizations often operating in a continental or global scale, each context has its own idiosyncrasies. It is not possible to copy-paste solutions seen during the conference. The goal of these meetings and of the AIVP is the exchange of experiences that can inspire to animate each port-city adapting global strategies to the local context and available resources.
The second remark refers to the return on investment, probably one of the main challenges port-city animation faces. It is not easy to explain and convince certain sector and political leaders to make the investment into port-city animation. Sociological, management and other academic studies could be used to explain the issue and gather the necessary support. However, if we consider the alternative, not doing anything, as it happened during most part of the 20th century, we should find some justification for the investment. If we observe the consequences of this long lasting inaction in the social port-city relationship during decades, the opposition that has gradually emerged, the lack of awareness we can find a strong enough motivation to invest and take action. As Eamonn O´Rielly said regarding social initiatives, and by extension port-city animation: “we do it because we have to”.
Bird, J. H. (1963). The major seaports of the United Kingdom. Hutchison.
Hoyle, B.S. (1989) The port City Interface: Trends, Problems and Examples, Geoforum Vol. 20, 429-435.
Lynch, K. (1960). The image of the City. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Van Hooydonk, E. (2007). Soft values of seaports. A strategy for the restoration of public support for seaports. Antwerp: Garant.
Since this blog started I have been contacted by many interested on the port-city relationship. Initially I was surprised and pleased to see how many people share a common passion for this topic. During the time past I have gotten in contact with other researcher developing interesting investigation projects, from different perspectives that somehow complement themselves. This blog has been since its beginning a platform to share information about port-cities, for this reason it seemed appropriated and useful for its readers to briefly present the research from these colleagues and give their contact for networking opportunities.
In this first post about fellow investigators I will present four of them with whom I have shared discussions and coffee breaks during (sometimes boring) congresses. We all share the same passion for this topic and their work is worth knowing. The following lines give a short introduction to the research of Karel Van den Berghe, Beatrice Moretti, Paolo de Martino, Hilde Sennema,Marica Castigliano and Fatma Tanis. You will notice they all have different backgrounds, but share some similarities. The project descriptions have been provided by themselves.
Karel Van den Berghe
Analyzing the Relational Geometry of the Port-City Interface
This PhD research (Ghent University 2014-2018) applies a relational approach to the study of port city interfaces. Such approach allows us to analyse how actors are connected, transact and assign meaning and value to local development. Much of the literature and studies on the port-city interface have primarily focused on late 20th century transformation processes at the urban waterfront. This fails to appreciate the often continued presence of port activity within cities and falls short in understanding how development agenda of port cities are relationally constituted. Therefore, this PhD research has three main goals. First, we theoretically develop the hypothesis that the port-city interface is not a closed system, but a relational construct through which heterogeneous flows of actors, assets and structures coalesce and take place. Second, using this theoretical framework, a conceptual framework capable of categorizing different relational port-city interfaces is presented and applied in a schematic way to the port cities of Ghent, Belgium, and Amsterdam, The Netherlands. By mapping the relational geometries of these port cities, our results show how both public and private actors through networking strategically relate in different ways, across different territorial scales, within different institutionalized structured and between different economic sectors. Third, by analyzing the relational geometries, they provide us with examples of different dynamic actor-relational interplays and how this results in particular development trajectories. Eventually, this research questions the perceived geographical dichotomy between port and city.
PORTUALITY XXI – Models and Strategies for the Urban-Port Dynamic Threshold
‘Portuality’ is a concept rooted in some urban centers from the very early on. A territorial quality which specifically denotes those cities born and developed through strong historic/symbolic and economic/functional relationship with its own port. So, ‘portuality’ is a landscape requirement or a constitutive specificity of some territories. The research supports the recognition of ‘portuality’ as a specific character and together believes that the urban-port threshold, – in its various shapes and patterns -, could emerge as the main symbolic field of exploration where the ‘portuality paradigm’ is expressed also as a planning principle for coexistence strategies between port and city. The urban-port threshold materializes in the complex space along the margin between the two authorities, in that recurring landscape in which the city and the port are side by side. This heterogeneous but unique system is marked by an administrative boundary and is subjected to continuous hybridizations becoming a medium, an accumulator of change and transit. The urban-port threshold is, indeed, a dynamic system, a ‘filter space’: precarious, discontinuous, fragmented into parts where the juxtapositions take sufficient shape to acquire a dimension and be recognizable. According to this approach it is possible to update the old dichotomy ‘city-port’ outlining a new vision in which the port city is a forma urbis in progress, a composite, plural and open figure affected by the speed of changing processes and influenced by the many factors that every day are embodied in its territorial palimpsest.
Port-city development. An interdisciplinary analysis for port city in transition. Naples as case study
Numerous actors have been involved in the planning of the port and city of Naples; actors who have different ideas and goals, different tools, and even time-frames. The European Union, the Italian nation, the Campania Region, the Municipality of Naples, and the Port Authority act upon the port at different levels of planning. Each entity has different spatialities and temporalities. Their diverse goals have led port and city to develop into separate entities, from a spatial, functional as well as administrative point of view. The different scopes of their planning are particularly visible in the zone between port and city. As a result of these different development goals, the interface between port and city, particularly in waterfront zones that form the geographical area between the old city and the modern port, is undefined and its future is in limbo; in fact, the whole relationships between city and port requires rethinking.
Since the XIX century, the multitude and heterogeneity of planning authorities has produced many uncertainties for the port-city relationship in Naples, and a stalemate for the areas where the port physically meets the city. Today, a real regeneration process of the port areas is not yet started, for different reasons and city and port are really separated. This research explores why the city and port of Naples, one of the most important historical ports in Italy, seems resistant to urban plans, as well as co-operation between various actors involved in the urban planning processes. Using the concept of path dependency theory, the research aims to develop an actor-institutional and spatial understanding of the changing port-city relationship in Naples and the resulting urban transformations.
The Port-City as their Business: the involvement of entrepreneurs in the Rotterdam policy network, 1930-1970.
Despite changes to the physical structure of port cities during the twentieth century, ports continue to be connected to the urban scale through local policy systems, business networks, and labour markets. Moreover, ports are still recognized through city names and often build their marketing strategies on a port city identity. In her PhD research, Reinhilde Sennema (Erasmus University Rotterdam) looks at the case of Rotterdam analyze this phenomenon between 1930 and 1970, a time of severe crises (Great Depression, Second World War) and immense infrastructural innovations (petrochemical industry, container). She focuses on the role of port related associations, institutions and individuals in the Rotterdam policy network between 1930 an 1970, and asks why these actors were involved in urban developments, such as the reconstruction of the war damaged city center. In order to do so, she uses archives of, for example, the association for port interests (Stichting Havenbelangen), which was seen as the marketing department of the port of Rotterdam. It is expected that, already in the 1930s, the city of Rotterdam was considered to be an important asset in the world-wide marketing of the port. Conversely, from the 1930s until well in the 1960s, policy makers constructed and used a narrative that a strong port was the foundation of a wealthy city. This study therefore looks into early forms of public-private partnerships, and aims to shed light on the interests and values that are at play within present day collaborations between port and city as well.
Port Systems as Driving Force of Regional Development Strategies – Planning towards Logistics and Urban Regeneration Scenarios
The research project focuses on port systems as networks of infrastructures that spread in the regional territory, for instance through seaport areas, inland terminals, logistics platforms and corridors.
The study starts from the question “how the ‘economies of the sea’ shape the lands?”. It specifically aims to investigate processes of governance involving Port Authorities, Cities and Regions and how they could support new strategies for development, beyond the border of the seaport and according to their specific ambitions.
The ‘spaces of flows’ (like flows of goods) are influencing contemporary landscapesand affect human behaviours and built environments. For this reason, the study investigates global networks focusing on the effects that the supply chain issues produce in the local context of port regions.Port areasof logisticsthat are part of the contemporary urbanized worldare also strategicin planning, especiallywhen new scenarios and urban regeneration programs are set up.
The theoretical framework of the study is based on Post-Metropolitan Urban Studies. According to this theory, the city is no longer a compact urban form. Urban planners have to deal with new ‘splintered’ forms of urbanization and urban structures spreading in wide regional areas. Considering that logistics areas vary in size, distribution and location, the study investigates the port system in a multi-scalar perspective focusing on the multiple actors involved in its governance processes. The port system, with its infrastructural nodes and links, is part of this multi-scalar urbanization and – as source of important transcalar economies–becomes the hard structure of port territories and the study argues that it should be considered in urban development strategies. This infrastructural armour constitutes the ‘operational landscape’ which supports the urban life as –even if it doesn’t seem part of our lives–it provides daily services and influences the organisation of the contemporary society.
The research project aims to investigate the port system and the aspect of governance, trying to answer to the main question “How the improvement of the port system could lead planning strategies for urban and regional development in Italy?”. It includes three sub-questions related to logistics, geographical and historical aspects:
How do port economies shape the territory and whatare the infrastructural geographies of port regionalization?
How do these new geographies affect the “surrounding environment” and how do they modifyspaces and plans of the Port-City at the local scale?
How can we address the gap between transport/logistics and urban development policies?
The study focuses on different European port regions and it investigates the aspect of distribution related to processes of logistics geographies and the aspect of relations among Port Authorities, City, Region and other actors.International cases are used to identify key variables in spatial and governmental evolution of the selected port region.
PORT CITY CULTURE OF IZMIR AS A CROSS-CULTURAL CONSTRUCT – Narratives of Izmir’s Border Crossing Practices since 16th Century
The thesis explores the importance of port city culture through narrative analysis of social-spatial developments in Turkish port city of Izmir. The research aims to investigate how city was constructed by short and long term immigrants and how narratives took position during this construction.Izmir is a particularly appropriate case for this analysis. Travelers have left narratives of the city since the 16th century describing daily life, events, Izmir’s built environment on waterfront and also hinterland. The PhD project has an intention and motivation to achieve to the present and points out how contemporary city and port city culture relation could be re-established through its trans-cultural history.
Port cities with their long-standing and diverse histories, their global networks and changing fates have attracted numerous commentaries and decision-makers have used them carefully to help build a local port city culture. This local culture thrives throughcontinuously evolving of international relationships, goods, people, and ideas, etc. Its locus is the contact zone, a range of diverse spatial figures—industrial, residential, leisure, religious, education, offices- that are centred around the waterfront but also dispersed through the city.
Port city culture is related to numerous different cultures that clash in port cities, “under impacts of internal and external political, economic and social forces” for beneficial of port and trade activities. Plenty of actors, users, protagonists from different countries, from different backgrounds contributed to Izmir’s port city culture. Collaboration of local and European knowledge created unique form.
Alfred Louis Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn, “Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions,” Papers. Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, Harvard University (1952).
Are you also a young researcher investigating the port-city relation? contact us!
We will do future posts featuring other researchers. I take this opportunity to invite young scientist dealing with the port-city relationship to get in contact and explain the research project to be featured in another similar article.
On October last year I had the chance to participate in a workshop organized by the ISOCARP and ITACUS, in collaboration with Glasgow city council. The scope of the workshop was to gather a group of young professionals from different fields, such as (underground) engineering, architecture and planning, and produce visions for Glasgow’s waterfront, more specifically the western section. During one week we worked together in groups of five trying to find a coherent concept for the riverfront, combine our expertise. The final result was a report with the proposals developed by the groups.
As a result of decades of industrial decline, the Clyde waterfront is lacking in vibrancy, coherence, built character and a sense of place. There are a significant number of vacant and derelict sites, large areas of surface-level car parking, a number of sizeable monolithic land uses and little sense of the area’s historic legacy.
In addition, the site examined has particularly poor pedestrian connectivity. Both as a result of the Clydeside Expressway, poor east-west connections along the river walkway, poor north-south connections across the river and little access or visual connection with the river itself. This has created a sense of isolation away from the vibrant and diverse neighbourhoods around it, particularly Govan and the West End.
The site has a rich heritage of great significance for Glaswegians (see section 2.3), although little tangible built evidence of this remains. Our group title ‘Welding the Weegie Waterfront’ makes reference to the area’s historic past, where the term ‘Clyde Built’ was once a world-renowned description of ships built with outstanding craftsmanship and quality. It is our intention to explore how the regeneration of the Clyde could take a similarly carefully-crafted approach that is rooted in the area’s sense of place and can once again become an area for which Glaswegians can take pride.
The site investigations that informed this report explored the extents of the area, from the City Centre to the working Govan shipyards, including both north and south of the Clyde. Surveying Finnieston, Partick, Govan and Pacific Quay, as well as the Riverside Museum, Govan Graving Docks and a number of vacant and derelict sites, we navigated the barriers of water and motorway infrastructure in the process. Evidence was gathered from conversations with local users of the river, and by getting down onto the water itself, with a boat ride. Both these particular perspectives have been primary inspirations for our strategy for the Clyde.
This has led to an approach that re-frames the city from the point of view of the river and re-examines the river from the perspective of the people of Glasgow themselves (or ‘Weegies’ – a perhaps controversial but familiar local term).
In line with this approach, we have created a persona through which to test our strategy for the site. While there will be more than one person’s perspective of the site, for the purposes of this study, we have explored one experience in detail. She has become an example of a Weegie who is exploring the Waterfront. We have called her Lucy MacDonald.
Lucy’s story and Lucy as a planning/participatory tool
The methodology we have developed during the workshop is based on systems engineering and systems thinking. Our methodology is summed up in the diagram below:
Study the environment – site visits, maps and GCC presentations
The first step of the methodology consists of analysing the environment by a territorial diagnosis; both its constraints and its opportunities. Due to time limits and the format of the workshop, we analysed the environment with the help of Glasgow City Council’s (GCC) presentations, maps (provided by GCC) and two site visits. One visit was alongside the river walkway by foot and another one was by boat on the river itself. This analysis allowed us to define the present state of the Clyde waterfront:
Activities (site visits + GCC presentations)
Climate (site visits + GCC presentations)
Topography (site visits + map)
Built environment (site visits + maps)
Urban form (site visits + maps)
Geology (maps + GCC presentation)
Space use (site visits + maps + GCC presentation)
Define the needs –Lucy’s story
The next step in our methodology consisted of defining people’s needs near the Clyde waterfront. We asked the question – what do people want to do on, and near the waterfront? This focuses on assessing needs through desired future realities. This approach could be considered a ‘bottom-up’ approach because it emphasizes citizens as primary stakeholders. What would we (as planners consulting the Council) like the people to be able to do in this area? This approach is more ‘top-down’ as it emphasises the public institution of the Council as a point of departure. Using both of these approaches – ‘bottom-up’ and ‘top down’ – will help to shape the future activities alongside the Clyde Waterfront.
A problem with urban planning is that needs are related to spaces, however, spaces are shared resources and people all have different needs. Therefore, it could be very difficult to satisfy every citizen of Glasgow with limited available space. Importantly, the renovation of the Clyde does not only require the determination and analysis of needs, but also frames the area’s evolution over time. For example, for the next 20 years or more.
In order to understand how the site could be attractive to Glaswegians, we wrote the story of a fictional character: Lucy MacDonald. She’s a young woman who represents one experience of living on the Clyde Waterfront in the year 2040. Within the YPTDP workshop, we chose to imagine what life would be like for the people of Glasgow in the next 20 years as well as what could inspire them. During this workshop, we imagined one week* of Lucy’s life on the waterfront (but other timeframes could also be explored further – one day, one year, etc.). In essence, we are using Lucy’s story as a narrative for city development. This narrative could be further researched and more extensively analysed and enriched. Lucy is adopted as a persona that represents a specific demographic, and investigative research can help to build her story: What are her needs in 2040 that would help to attract this demographic to Glasgow?
In this workshop, we only used one persona. We used the story of Lucy, but stories of other Glaswegians with different characteristics (varying demographics – gender, age, socio-economic background, etc.), could also be imagined to explain the needs of other Glaswegians. While infinite stories could be told, for the purposes of this planning tool, the number of personas should be limited and carefully targeted, in order to explain the necessary variation of experience, while allowing people to focus on the planning proposals. The story should be used to assist the planning process. It’s an enabling system that allows the principal focus in the project to remain at the centre: Rethinking the Clyde Waterfront. In our project this is: Welding the Weegie Waterfront.
Ideally, even Lucy’s story itself is written by Glaswegians themselves. If made possible, Lucy’s story could be used as a participatory tool.** Glaswegians writing the story themselves could be arranged, for example, by using a combination of big data and social media. Popular channels on social media could enable various ways of interacting, rating, and providing content. Examples of these are Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter.
Locate Lucy’s activities in space and time
Lucy’s needs are then translated into activities. This step consists of assigning spaces as well as a specific timeframe (i.e. time of day/week/year) that allow activities to take place. Activities are allocated to space and time independently. Since one of the objectives by GCC was to implement place-based solutions, we use the Clyde as our main spatial departure point. Looking from the Clyde, we explored potential zones along the Waterfront, crossing the banks and, in so doing, reactivating them. Lucy’s story provides this perspective from the Clyde to the city.
Allocate activities on the surface
The first space allocation takes place on the surface, on the banks of the Clyde, above ground. During the workshop, and as a direct result of site analysis undertaken, we created a series of layered maps allocating various activities to different spaces. Each map layer explored one type of activity distributed along the waterfront.
As a starting point, we identified where Lucy’s activities were already present near the Clyde and developed them, where necessary, by improving or expanding their program and functions.
For new activities to the Waterfront, sites were allocated in relation to the varying spatial requirements for different activities. These were then strategically coordinated in order to have activities throughout the day (and night) alongside the Clyde.
Allocate activities in time
One objective of the Glasgow City Council is to transform the Clyde Waterfront into a vibrant place. According to this statement, activities should be allocated to have activities on the Waterfront throughout the day. Certain activities had to be re-allocated to meet this requirement.
Allocate activities on the ground, above the ground or underground
The result of this methodology was that different activities were superimposed on the same space. The following possibilities were formulated:
To use the same space for different activities at various parts of the day;
To use underground and above ground spaces for a multitude of various activities;
To combine both possibilities;
Layer such as: Business; Green/Landscape; Living; Road network & infrastructural nodes: station, highway, bridges; Sport & Health; Education; Culture
Design and engineering
After activities have been located in both space and time (in a way that addresses citizens’ needs as much as possible), it is then necessary to develop spatial solutions for each defined activity. This moved the process from planning towards more architectural- and engineering-based conversations. Within the group, architects and engineers then worked together to define the best solutions within the technical constraints.
These engineering and architectural constraints then led to further strategic conversations around the allocations of activities in both space and time. There were two main types of constraint; the constraints arising directly from the product itself (structural constraints, technological constraints, geological constraints, etc.) and the constraints caused by the enabling system (organizational, regulatory, contracting, financing, etc.). During the development of the product, they both interact and influence each other. In system engineering this process is explained by the “Vee-cycle” development tool:
This cycle explains the classic development of a product starting with defining the needs towards its operation, and later the destruction/reuse. It starts with formulating “system requirements” towards “component” requirements in the evolution of the project. During the workshop, we only studied the system requirements due to time constraint. We can see that both constraints from the proposed system and the enabling system can influence the solution.
For example, at times, we decided that it could be useful to have two underground storeys and four aboveground storeys to house the activities defined by Lucy’s needs. However, due to geological constraints 2 underground storeys were not possible (this constraint comes from the proposed system) and because of the Local Development Plan it is not possible to have more than 3 floors (this constraint comes from the enabling system). Then we will have to find another solution to undertake the activities, for example to find a new space on the Clyde, or to lower the quality of service related to the chosen activities. There is a feedback loop between the citizens’ (personas like Lucy) needs and the architectonic solution developed by architects and engineers.
Vision/Strategy: From the city to the river and from the river to the city – working with the edges
Lucy on the waterfront
During our analysis and site visits, we were able to experience the river directly from the water. Our perception of the river was transformed when viewed directly from a boat rather than from the more conventional viewing points along the riverbanks. We also noticed that the river is unique in its ability to connect the city from east to west. In order to change the role of the waterfront in the city and to reactivate it, we decided that it was crucial to work with the edges and to capitalize upon the river’s potential to connect the city from east to west.
In our story, Lucy Macdonald is able to spend her whole day along the waterfront. In this imagined future, it is possible to be by the river, experience different interactions with the water and enjoy the unique atmosphere found along the Clyde. At the moment, the riverbanks work almost exclusively as a fast bike-lane. People use it to travel east-west, from the outskirts to the city centre. One of the goals of our proposals is to complement the existing program, creating spaces where people would like to stay, not just pass by quickly.
Lucy’s typical day would begin in a new start-up hub, next to the shipyards, where an opportunity area has already been detected by the municipality. After an entire morning working in her new company, she would then cross the river to go for a run. Lucy could cross the Clyde with a new ferry service or the Clyde Tunnel, now improved and more pedestrian-friendly. On the north side of the Clyde, she would jog along the river enjoying the widened and improved public space that now continues more seamlessly to the city centre. Later, she could either study in the knowledge centre, meet a friend in a café or go shopping in a new retail area.
The Edges – Active topographies
The quay walls of the river Clyde currently act as a vertical barrier that keep the people far from the water. To improve this situation, we propose to deconstruct these edges, creating a “soft” transition between the river level and the city level. Bringing people closer to the water, and ‘softening’ this transition is, we believe, crucial to the redevelopment of the Clyde. Within the site boundary, several locations where the idea of platforms at different levels could be implemented, were identified. These varying heights could allow a more intense integration of different programs, creating a complex and “active” topography.
The following images illustrate different examples of urban waterfront regeneration, bringing people closer to the water. One example, Lyon, creates several typologies of public spaces by the water, where people can stay, run or play. These lower spaces offer protection from the traffic existing on the ground level and give people a new perception of the river and their city’s relationship to it. Chicago has adopted a similar approach, but on a different scale. The river, which clearly has an urban character, is far lower than the street. Making the most of this height
difference, it was possible to implement a program of cafés and restaurants under street level and closer to the water. This intervention has brought life and diversity to the river bank. It is no longer just a place for sports but also a place to go out at night or have coffee after lunch. Working with different levels brings a panoply of possibilities, from educational programs to roof gardens. The Ewha University of Seoul provides an example of the possible integration strategy the Knowledge Centre where Lucy might study could adopt. The possibility of reading, studying or seeing an exhibition while also looking at the Clyde is a luxury that should be explored in Glasgow.
The aforementioned idea requires certain features that are not available along the Waterfront. For this reason, our approach has been tailored to specific sites, and some locations require a totally different approach. On the western section of our intervention area, the new Glasgow Harbour residential development is situated. These new buildings are located close to the river’s edge, making it harder to implement the idea of the deconstructed edge. However, the main goal of experiencing the Clyde from different perspectives can nonetheless still be achieved. Instead, increasing the existing public space with a cantilever platform would also bring people closer to the water and to the centre of the river. This intervention would help to strengthen the continuity of public space along the waterfront, creating an atmosphere that is civic and public. In different places on both banks we noticed the feeling of privatisation of common space. The edge was in some cases fenced and impeded the parallel circulation and connection. The new platform could also be complemented by a second floating element along the same section. Here people might be able to touch the water or engage with boats and other floating elements. These ideas, which could also be implemented in other areas along the river, aim to regenerate the relationship between Glaswegians and the water.
Identity on the waterfront
Our proposal is titled “Welding the Weegie Waterfront”. This term appeals to the vernacular of Glasgow and Glaswegians. It refers to a sense of place based on local identity. We believe the plan to be developed in this city should respect and enhance its existing heritage and identity. Along the edges of the river, the idea of identity and heritage is found in remnants of the river’s shipbuilding past. For example, the different former shipyard ramps could offer a third type of interaction with the water. These elements, on both banks, are presently abandoned. They present interesting characteristics that could provide another dimension to the waterfront: the connection with the past.
The final idea for the edges, which affects the entire Waterfront from east to west, is to develop a common identity for this part of the city. The use of a common design language could improve Glaswegians’ perceptions of their river, and could also emphasize the history of the activities that took place in the past along the waterfront. Despite their absence, they continue to contribute to the identity of the city. Remaining heritage elements, from the crane to the former shipyards and the bridges, are currently isolated episodes along the Clyde. An intervention that celebrates the area’s historic assets could improve the quality of the space and the mental image of the Waterfront. We can find an example of this approach in Oslo, where the Havnepromenade works to connecting the entire waterfront. This project stretches along 14 km, linking 14 stations, which explain the history of the local industries along the river. A common language could also be found for urban furniture, graphic design and the design of public spaces. This intervention would be able to, on the one hand, respect different character areas along the waterfront, while also ‘welding’ the river’s edge in its entirety on the other. It would result in a more coherent image of Glasgow in the mind of Glaswegians and visitors.
Havnepromenade by White arch. and Rodeo arch.
Oslo Havnepromenade by Grid.
Lucy’s needs and activities have helped define the main features that may need to be developed along the banks of the Clyde and its vicinity. This section focuses on the site-specific approaches that have been developed at three sites along the river. Building on the approaches outlined in the previous section, a multi-level/multi-purpose approach has been developed to give the river back to the “Weegies” and to weld their roots, needs and well being.
Clyde river banks and Quay walls:
Here is where Lucy’s story showcases a new way to interact with the Clyde river. As outlined above, the intervention alongside Glasgow Harbour could be enriched by the use of cantilevering platforms and floating pontoons. In other zones along the river banks, the quay walls may be able to be modified in order to allow a softer transition between the water level and the current street level. In those locations, the use of concrete structures and prefabricated modules may help to establish a strong water connection for both the north and the south banks of the Clyde.
Another important approach to the quay walls is maintenance. In some places of the Clyde river, there are some quay walls that have failed or are showing some structural affectation. This could be a unique opportunity to implement new structures that connect the street level and the river. They would be less robust than the actual walls and more durable (time). Referring to relevant hydraulic information of the Clyde river would help define where this kind of solution is feasible, taking into account the new uses the river will have (there is no need to have strong quay walls to support the ships docking, etc.), thereby giving to the community a new space for commercial activities.
Some complementary works and further exploration of the particular characteristics of the structures (water resilience, easy cleaning, etc.) will need to be carried out in order to create a new environment that can withstand water level variations as well as enable more active uses of the river banks.
Even given the short time surveying the Clyde, it became evident that between the “Clyde Arc” bridge and the Clyde tunnel there exists an immediate need to establish stronger physical north-south connections. In developing this idea, it became apparent that two important landmarks could define destinations and zones where this new infrastructure could be placed. The Kelvin river, which flows north to south, and the Riverside Museum standing isolated where the Kelvin meets the Clyde, provide a strong axis and key nodes for what we will call the Multi-level north-south connection (MLNSC).
In order to define the characteristic of this MLNSC, there are two main features that have to be evaluated. The first is the Clydeside Expressway; the east-west motorway along the north bank of the river, and the second is the River Clyde itself.
One common approach could be to bury at least two kilometres of the highway to create a new pathway for north-south connections. However, there is another opportunity that could also overcome the highway “barrier” as well as delivering new useful and weather-protected spaces to Glasgow. This alternative is an underground gallery which starts near the Yorkhill hospital development site between Finnieston and Partick and ends to close to the Clyde river quay walls in front of the Govan Graving Docks.
Is important to note that this underground gallery is conceived and designed as thoroughly integrated with surface level activities. Instead of being conceived as underground, it is viewed as a shifting ground plane. Indeed, the “interface between the above and below ground realms appears to be a critical factor in the acceptability and success of underground spaces.” In this kind of underground work, Glasgow has the advantage of easily excavatable geological conditions in which several tunnels and underground passages have already been developed.
The other main feature of the MLNSC is the crossing of the Clyde river from the north bank (next to the underground gallery exit) to the Govan graving docks. This connection is conceived as an elevated ‘green’ bridge, with no intermediate pillars nor cables that could interfere with the view from the bridge to the river and the new public spaces along both banks. The use of high strength materials (concrete, steel, etc.) must be considered during the detailed design of this structure.
Finally, the MLNSC will need to be complemented with multi-storey and active buildings that facilitate accessibility to different levels and hence ‘activate the section’. These developments should be used to strengthen the connection between ‘underground’ and elevated passages as well as the ‘deconstructed river edge’ as described earlier. These shifting ground planes will establish new relationships with the river and help Glaswegians to get in touch with the water once again.
The Govan Graving Docks offer a significant opportunity to bring new activities into the existing heritage structures to both reflect Glasgow’s important history of shipbuilding, and host new and diverse events.
First, a renewal of the old dock gates will be required in order to guarantee their watertight function. Next, the emptying of water out of the docks will provide new and unique spaces to the city to be used for local markets, commercial venues, cultural meetings, etc.
Another use for these newly revitalized Graving Docks could be a water retaining structure. A new connection to the sewer system, based on a complete hydraulic design, could enable this empty space to retain excess water during rain periods, allowing the collected flow to be disposed to the Clyde river in delayed stages. The purpose of this design is to ensure that the total flow in the river channel would never exceed its design capacity. As a stand-alone water retaining structure, the Govan Graving Docks could not be the city’s sole method of flood control, but if complemented with similar spaces located elsewhere along the Clyde river course, the cumulative effect could be of great help in mitigating Glasgow’s flood risk.
Conclusion: Welding the Weegie Waterfront takeaways
Our proposal is a way to address the core issue in planning the Clyde waterfront: its lacking in vibrancy, coherence, built character or a sense of place. The proposal aims to improve the connectivity through ‘welding’, which is a process of connecting various areas across the Clyde via new and existing infrastructure. The process is rooted in place and referencing the legacy of the place’s history.
The workshop provided the opportunity to explore how the regeneration of the Clyde could take a carefully-crafted approach that is rooted in the area’s sense of place and can once again become an area for which Glaswegians, or Weegies, can take pride. This approach can consist of a planning methodology that adopts the persona of Lucy MacDonald and recounts her daily activities in a narrative style.
This methodology could very well be expanded to allow more participants from Glasgow to be involved and become stakeholders. It has a potential to become a participatory tool in planning and our proposed channels are social media and big data. Therefore, Lucy’s story is an approach that re-frames the city from the point of view of the river, while re-examining the river from the perspective of the people of Glasgow themselves. From the perspective of implementation, the story should be used to assist the planning process as an enabling system, which allows the principal focus in rethinking the Clyde Waterfront to remain: Welding the Weegie Waterfront.
It is place making through systems thinking. In systems thinking, two types of constraints must be taken into account: the constraints arising directly from the product itself (structural constraints, technological constraints, geological constraints, etc.) and the constraints caused by the enabling system (organizational, regulatory, contracting, financing, etc.). During the development of the product they both interact and influence each other and, in systems engineering, this process is explained by the “Vee-cycle” development tool.
Our vision is to change the role of the waterfront in the city and to reactivate it. In essence, the project site is both the problem and the solution. Our strategy could be understood as threefold:
Lucy’s story provides a persona and narrative that focus principally on the Clyde Waterfront. Lucy Macdonald is able to spend her whole day along the waterfront. In this imagined future, it is possible to be by the river, experience different interactions with the water and enjoy the unique atmosphere we find when visiting the Clyde.
The Edges – Active topographies are examples of urban waterfront regeneration, where the result is bringing people closer to the water. In order to achieve this, it is crucial to focus on the edges and also to capitalize upon the river’s potential to connect the city across the river.
Identity on the waterfront: interesting characteristics that could provide another dimension to the waterfront, which enable a connection with the past. In terms of the image of the city, this component aims to unify the area on a larger scale through a design language.
Our proposed approach to planning and our strategy are illustrated with three site projects:
Clyde river banks and Quay walls is primarily reconsidering the edges of the Clyde river. It aims to create a new environment that can withstand water level variations as well as enable more active uses of the river banks. In other zones along the river banks, the quay walls may be able to be modified to create a softer transition between the water level and the current street level.
Multi-Level North-South Connection (MLNSC) portrays the potential of involving engineering in urban design in an early phase. To restructure major infrastructural components, for example by shifting ground planes, new relationships with the river will be established. This will enable Glaswegians to get in touch with the water once again.
The Govan Graving Docks look at the potential redevelopment of the docks in Govan, south of the Clyde. They have a high potential for becoming a water retaining structure and, if integrated into wider city networks, could reduce the risk of flooding.
 Think Deep: Planning, development and use of underground space in cities. ISOCARP, ITA-AITES, ITACUS. Netherlands, 2015.