Metro-Matrix Book Review: Chess holds the secret to saving our cities. Salon: Henry Grabar

Metro-Matrix Book Review: Chess holds the secret to saving our cities. Salon: Henry Grabar
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  2/8/2014Chess holds the secret to saving our cities - Salon.com SATURDAY, DEC 7, 2013 06:00 PM EST Chess holds the secret to saving our cities What this game of strategy can show us about building the metropolis of the future HENRY GRABAR   TOPICS: DREAM CITY , PEDRO ORTIZ , URBAN PLANNING , MADRID , BOGOTÁ , EDITOR'S PICKS , SUSTAINABILITY NEWS , BUSINESS NEWS (Credit: Carsten Reisinger, Vadim Georgiev via Shutterstock/Salon) Pedro Ortiz is on a metropolitan planning mission. Like many urban theorists, he usesmetaphors to illustrate his points, and his preferred comparison is to games.Too often, Ortiz says, we think of the metropolis like a dartboard, one whose concentriccircles of development decline in value and importance with distance from the center. Thisis the radial or orbital model of metropolitan planning, one that prizes centrality above all. Itis, for Ortiz, a design whose failures have rendered it obsolete.Instead, he suggests we imagine the metropolis as a chessboard, where every square plays arole and control of the center can be complemented by clever play along the edges. Ortizcalls this system of evenly spaced nodes and gridded traffic corridors the “reticular,” and itis his trademark method of planning. In a metropolitan scheme for Bogotá, Colombia, Ortizactually placed chess pieces on a map, each corresponding to a particular sub-regionalfunction: an airport, town center or commercial business district. 234 98 12  14 Pat Robertson begs Ken Ham toshut up ELIAS ISQUITH R.I.P. Republican credibility: Whytheir latest blatant lies showthey've given up BRAD FRIEDMAN Too poor for pop culture D. WATKINS How should we build the cities of our dreams? Howdo we create the urban spaces which reflect ourvalues and the ways we want to live? In citiesaround the world, the future is being created now --and Henry Grabar will chronicle the most excitingand innovative ideas. Follow him on Twitter at @henrygrabar . ADVERTISEMENT   fǿŀŀǿ    ẅ           ș     ǻŀǿň      Email Address   SUBSCRIBE MOST READ  2/8/2014Chess holds the secret to saving our cities - Salon.com “Metropolises are not at all like cities,” Ortiz told me over the phone last week. Developingthe regional plan for Madrid in the mid-’90s, Ortiz learned that metropolitan planning, inaddition to foresight, requires coordination and sacrifice. “Every mayor wanted to be aqueen. But their role was not to be a queen or a king but to be a knight, a bishop or apawn.”To make regions function as a whole, Ortiz designed the Metro-Matrix, a system marked bylinearity – intersecting transportation lines organized around natural features – andnumerous centers. It’s an idea that Ortiz, a senior urban planner at the World Bank, hassince exported to cities as distinct as Cairo, Mexico City, Istanbul and Manila, and whoseprinciples he expounds in a new manual, “The Art of Shaping the Metropolis.” Given thepace of global urbanization, time is short. Looking onto unplanned slums spreading like oilstains around Accra, Ghana, and Monrovia, Liberia, or doubling year over year at themargins of N’Djamena, Chad, and Amman, Jordan, Ortiz sees a time bomb.* * *At the urban scale, the grid is the oldest and most popular design we have. It brings obviousadvantages to movement, organization, architecture and real estate in the city. But rarely hasit been successfully deployed as a regional strategy. ADVERTISEMENT In Madrid, confronted with a period of rapid growth and a plan a half-century old, Ortizenvisioned a new plan: His Metro-Matrix concept encouraged the development of importantmetropolitan functions like airports, housing developments and industrial parks –“centralities,” in Ortiz’s parlance — away from the historic center of the city, around aloosely woven net of highways and rail lines. This network would relieve congestion in thecenter city and open connections between formerly isolated suburbs. The importance of thedensely populated historic core would be counteracted by sustainable peripheraldevelopment.From the center of Madrid, these changes are difficult to perceive. But for those who workalong the corridor of the new M-45 expressway, or inhabit housing developments organizedaround new rail extensions, the benefits of a reticular planning scheme are built into theroutines of daily life. Commutes are faster; land values are more evenly distributed. Thestructure for metropolitan expansion is in place.On paper, the plan’s linear emphasis appears almost oddly uniform, as if the entire regionhad been mashed in a waffle iron. But Ortiz was quick to insist that the checkerboardpattern, at the regional level, is not an imposition like a street grid, but a natural product of metropolitan territory — one that also emerged from the metropolises of Bogotá, Santiagode Chile and Nairobi, Kenya. “It’s finding the DNA of the metropolis,” he says.The secret, according to Ortiz, lies in the common geographical pattern that underlies manysuccessful metros. “Metropolises have this strategic location, which is always the borderbetween two ecosystems. And that provides for the linearity.” In Madrid, the matrix is along, thin rectangle between the sierra and a river valley. In Bogotá, it spreads out from ahard edge at the foot of the Andes. In Cairo, a reticular is envisioned around the axis of theNile, splitting in the north to preserve the Delta. 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Between 1974 and1996, the residential space occupied by the typical Madrileño grew from 130 square feet to215 square feet. The size of the average family dropped from five to three. The amount of built land in the region – buildings, roads, etc. – grew correspondingly, by 50 percent in twodecades. Ortiz’s plan was adopted in 1996, and has since served as a guideline to the regionthrough a tumultuous period of growth and crisis.* * *In “The Art of Shaping the Metropolis,” Ortiz explains that wealth, rather than migration orthe birth rate, is the most important factor in planning metropolitan growth. “When you havewealth, you increase the amount of built space you use, not just your house — socialfacilities, commercial, offices, and so on,” Ortiz notes. In other words, the world’s slumshave a lot more sprawling left to do. Depending on your temperament, and your belief inthe efficacy of planning, this could be hopeful or ominous. Time remains to organize urbanexpansion in rapidly developing cities – because the greatest growth is yet to come.Many of the cities Ortiz has consulted show annual population growth rates of 5 percent,enough to double the physical footprint of the city in 14 years. Others are growing faster.Almost everywhere, the standard of living is rising and family size decreasing, indicatinggrounds for further expansion still.And many have neither the money nor the political capital to reserve rights of way fortransit lines or safeguard natural resources from development – in other words, to engage inreal predictive  planning rather than the post-facto management   that so often claims thatmantle. Their solutions are often piecemeal, or simply fast, designed to demonstrate theaccomplishments of shortsighted politicians.Ortiz cites the bus rapid transit trend as an example. When BRT was introduced in Bogotá adecade ago, it was hailed as a model and an inspiration. Since then, the city has added morethan a million residents, and it has become apparent that the buses are woefully unable tomeet the city’s transit needs. Last year, Bogotans’ dissatisfaction over the system led to riots.“When you’re dealing with a metro of 3 million, it’s not enough,” Ortiz says. “It doesn’tmean it’s bad; it’s not enough. For the circular system, it’s the same thing.” An orbitaldesign worked fine for cities like Paris and Moscow up to a certain point. Then theconcentric circles of ring roads began to feel more like nooses than beltways. The newGrand Paris plan, Ortiz notes with pleasure, involves Metro lines that don’t pass through thecenter at all. It’s a reticular plan, he says, though not one of his own.Seeing how a metropolis can be reorganized with the reticular intersections of acheckerboard is not necessarily easy, and in some places, simply impossible. It’s a skill thatOrtiz likens to what the German military strategist Carl von Clausewitz called the ”coupd’oeil” — the ability to arrive at a battlefield and quickly understand the tactical advantagesof the terrain. So too a metropolitan matrix can emerge from the arrangements of mountains,rivers and human settlements. A planner must learn to read a city and its surroundings, boththe natural and the man-made, and plot a sensible grid for expansion.“The difference,” Ortiz remarks, “is that in a battle, you’ll see if the general was right orwrong within 48 hours. In a metropolis it takes 40 years … and if you’re wrong as aplanner, you don’t have many more chances.” MORE HENRY GRABAR.   234 98 12  14 Dangerous levels of arsenic and lead detectedin North Carolina river Next Article FROM AROUND THE WEB Top 10 HottestActresses In Their 20s Top 10 NaughtiestScenes In Game ofThrones10 Child Stars WhoTotally Lost ItTop 10 Reasons WhyKimYe Is AnnoyingTop 10 Vampire MoviesOf All TimeThe 10 NaughtiestCelebrity ScandalsTop 10 ‘Girls’ Make OutScenesTop 10 Sexiest IndianWomen In Bollywood Presented by Scribol ADVERTISEMENT Too poor for pop culture 1 points | 44 comments5 libertarian oligarchs who made fortunes offthe government they want to destroy 46 points | 21 commentsKen Ham’s radical quackery: Why his debatewith Bill Nye on evolution was so maddening 3 points | 6 comments God Hears Your Prayers Is Listening & He Hears You PrayDiscover God's Love and Forgiveness Free Prophecy For You yourpersonalprophecy.comGet God's Plan For You in 2014. 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