Index > Briefing
Thursday, July 15, 2021
On Modular Cities
Chan Kung

There is a large number of research authorities, experts, and scholars in the field of urban studies around the world, who can be found in various universities and research institutes. If the privileged design and planning agencies of government departments are included, then this must be an industry of astonishing scale. The problem is that their products, services, outcomes, which are the cities that they designed, are in a mess. This seems to be a proof that there is no effective urban theories and programs in the world, and it is precisely because of this, everything in any city now appears to be absurd and outdated.

Almost all cities face the problem of traffic congestions and shortage of parking lots. While urban dwellers might be driving high-performance vehicles and enjoying the convenience of modern industrial products, yet people will still need to waste a large amount of time on the road. The high-rise buildings of Downtown Boston proudly stand tall, yet every night, the whole area will become silent, and homeless people quickly fill the spaces after daylight.

As cities grow bigger, the problems are getting worse. It takes longer and longer to get from one place to another, and our life seems to be shrinking relatively rapidly. It seems that the expansion and expansion of cities does not provide people with greater space to resolve problems. On the contrary, the problems and troubles caused by the flaws in cities are constantly on the rise.

While cities do provide the basis for industrial prosperity, not many people are aware that businesses, products, and services that are spending more and more money, hence the costs are getting higher. This rapid increase in logistics costs has been disregarded by various academicians, who attribute it to other factors, such as the rapid growth of labor costs. One problem they ignore is that the distance will be longer due to spatial factor.

How does modern urban space become the source of problems? The answer to this question is highly complicated. There are certainly issues with modern urban space, and it seems that it has gradually evolved into an incurable disease. What then, are the causes and problems of such urban defects? One of the most important flaws and problems is that the theory that people adopted in designing cities is now completely obsolete. The fact that many gurus, scholars and experts who follow wrong theories to guide urban design is not accidental, but because they stick to outmoded ideas. The responsibility of this cannot be simply shifted to history or other excuses.

Are there new and modern urban design theories? There certainly are, and one such theory that carries hope is the modular urban theory.

Modular urban theory sets the urban space into a collection of modules. Each urban module is actually a smaller city, whereas each urban module has a core, and large and small urban modules with core space layout are formed. The influence of the modular combination on the overall urban space is reduced to minimum, because the existence and influence of the core space of each module is equivalent to the living room in a house. It plays the central role and consolidates the urban module. Such urban modules are full of flexibility, therefore even if the urban space is expanded, large-scale intersecting demands will not be generated. The relative independence of urban modules can then ensure the requirements to be satisfied.

It is for this reason that the modular urban design actually turns a bigger city into a smaller ones, and combines smaller cities to form a bigger city, establishing structural two-way spatial elasticity, and building on this basis to form a real multi-core city.

Multi-core city has much been discussed, but it remains difficult to be realized. It is either smaller core becoming too big, or the core is actually too big to be reliable. In contrast to this is the modular urban theory. In such urban spatial structure, people's life and work depend on the core modules. The spatial scale of each core module and the size of the urban modules form a certain rational proportional relationship. People's life and work are all within close distance, and the urban space creates rich possibilities for people's face-to-face communication activities. Such a modular city has completely changed the hierarchical system within the urban space, improved the rigid and unrealistic spatial divisions, and truly given the urban modular space characteristic and vitality, enabling it to exist relatively independently.

Establishing urban core space is the key to the modular urban theory, which should be composed of the key elements of lifestyle. This may include prosperous commercial zones, pedestrian streets, educational and medical facilities, leisure venues, plazas for recreation and communication, in addition to a number of reasonable commercial buildings. The most important thing in the core space of a modular city is to provide things that are increasingly scarce in the future, that is, face-to-face communication, which includes living and working. There is no doubt this is a space that requires creativity, and needs the joint efforts of architects, entrepreneurs, and government officials to realize.

Modular city, in terms of urban spatial layout, is a new spatial theory based on system theory. Of course, the term "module" has long been abused everywhere, but it clearly refers to the design of urban space, not building and construction technology, building structure, nor the community and enclosed real estate project, but the urban spatial structure layout to solve the main urban problems. The actual modular city is derived from several theoretical foundations long ago, built on the basis of "small is beautiful". The root theory is not new, and people have long realized that the cities are getting too big. While people understand very well that such development is not ideal, they are unable to locate means and methods to make cities "small". Therefore, year after year, almost all cities continue to expand. As long as urbanization continues, this trend may continue in the future, and becomes inevitable, unless there is a way that can adapt to modern life and solve the disorderly expansion of the city.

In conclusion, it is obvious that the modular urban design theory creates, supplies, and opens an outlet for urban renewal and the realization of pedestrian-oriented development (POD) goals and provides a way for the spatial structure of large cities with consumer and service industries to be revised. It lays out a possible prospect and a unique future for the construction of new cities.


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