urban gray / ambiguous / in-between spaces


The modern city creates a multitude of ambiguous,undefined,incoherent,odd spaces which are not integrated into the city . Good planning and urban design sense suggests that instead of allowing cities to sprawl endlessly new infill and regenerative ideas and concepts be applied within the urban areas. These spaces qualify.
I am doing a urban design thesis on this topic. any research suggestions are welcome. Also creative ways of designing for these spaces.

Jan 6, 05 1:59 pm

Surface and Space by Michael Alexander examines these types of unplanned, in-between spaces in St. Petersburg Russia through drawings and a short essay that you might want to check out. The book is self published and only on sale in a few places in NYC like Printed Matter and St. Mark's Books.

Jan 6, 05 2:19 pm  · 

in 'inside architecture,' vittorio gregotti describes them as 'atopic spaces.'

its more of a description and a call to attention though- no specific recommendations on design. but great reading and sounds relevant.

see: 'on atopia' in:

Jan 6, 05 2:29 pm  · 

its sorta a topic that's been beat into the ground, no? why not pick something that a lot of people haven't written about

Jan 6, 05 2:31 pm  · 

i agree that its a wet red horse. make us feel like you care about it. why does it matter? what can you personally add?

Also Rossi is another good book for context.

Jan 6, 05 3:10 pm  · 

a lot depends on context. your geographic location may be a place where it hasn't been applied much. recontextualizing these writings to your space may be a way to start.

i get the feeling you need to read a bit first and then come back with your take on it for more specifics. [almost] any topic can be made new with your personal take.

Jan 6, 05 3:24 pm  · 

for my own thesis i got a lot out of reading 'the city of collective memory' by m christine boyer. May give you ideas on where to start for historic/cultural references for these "new infill and regenerative ideas" of which you speak. the sprawl itself may not be bad, per se, and is moot; but finding cultural value, collective memories, and design context from a mishmash of sprawl can be difficult.

Jan 6, 05 4:04 pm  · 

I suggest looking at Jan Gehl's "Life Between Buildings."

It's now out of print and so it may be difficult to get.

Also, Jan Wampler, a professor at MIT has published a few articles that may be of interest. If you can find it: "The Space Between", Places, Vol. 8 No. 4, 1993

Jan 6, 05 5:03 pm  · 

I think aml makes a good point. A topic like this never gets "old." My suggestion is that you do some work on foot. You could document such spaces in your city, compare how they are used in different regions/cities/neighborhoods, or you could suggest different types of intervention.

Jan 6, 05 8:08 pm  · 
general acres

find a piece that gordon matta-clark did in the late 60's entitled: Fake Estates

Jan 7, 05 12:47 am  · 

An urban "gray" space as you call it exists amongst many structures in the urban environment as well as the suburban spaces. I have once seen someone design a residence in school, and a jury member stated: "What is that ... a place where the dogs go to die....." (It was a very unhabihtibal tight elongated space under a terrace between a garage/shed or something).

Jan 7, 05 4:13 pm  · 
Zoë Coombes

I agree with aml too. Who cares if the question is in vogue or is over- hasn't it been both since about 1971? If it is the next question you need to ask, then take the luxury of having a thesis period and ask it. Figure out what you think is useful, noble or flat and unpractical about the infill scene. By the end of all this you will be so aware of what part of this all is a 'dead red horse, or whatever that you will be the only one seeing the next step in the zeitgeist.

Jan 9, 05 11:31 am  · 

why not intentionally leave "odd" leftover spaces?
ambiguously claimed triangles, slices, no-man's-lands.

planned microchaos. woo

May 10, 05 4:26 am  · 

several essays in the collection 'slow space'. particularly those of michael bell.

May 10, 05 9:01 am  · 

check out tsukamoto's atelier bow-wow (Tokyo) here:

tsukamoto specializes in the study and inhabitation of leftover spaces in tokyo. you can see some of the work at the Made-in-tokyo project on his site.

May 10, 05 9:26 am  · 

in the same vein of 'Made-in-Tokyo', 'Pet Architecture' in another good one.

May 11, 05 6:57 pm  · 

Check matta_clark project in Queens

May 11, 05 7:38 pm  · 

i hate posts where the posters ask a question then disappear. Some thankfulness is appreciated always.

I hope thats not the case here (with the original poster puneet)

May 11, 05 8:13 pm  · 

Great thesis topic. I'm doing my thesis on a similar topic on urban land uses and how these spaces can contribute to sequestering carbon through food forests

Mar 26, 20 3:23 pm  · 
Non Sequitur

Cool story. That topic was super popular in 2005.


Grady Clay, Close Up: How to Read the American City provides a good lexicon for this topic.

Mar 26, 20 4:09 pm  · 



Landscape Architecture worth looking up!

Mar 27, 20 7:27 pm  · 

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