Introduction to the Visual Arts

Architecture & Urban Planning

Banner for Art110 Summer 2015

skyline of Jerusalem at dusk

When we think of Architecture we often think of beautiful and heroic buildings. Monuments. Landmarks. When we use buildings for work or home we might think of lighting, traffic patterns, ventilation. Yet for all the power and importance of architecture, it is arguably Urban Planning, how collections of buildings fit together to form neighborhoods and communities, that is more essential than the design of any individual building. What makes a place safe? Or dangerous? Nuturing? Or alienting? Fun? or boring? Active? Or passive? What makes one place seem filled with hope and possibilities and another seem tired and hopeless?

Pruitt Igoe (trailer)


It’s probably a little silly to try to pin specific events as the start or end of large movements in art and culture. Still, if you wanted to bookend Modernism, you might pick the 1863 painting of Olympia by Edouard Manet & Victorine Meurent as the start, and the demolition of the Pruitt Igoe Towers in St. Louis in 1972 as the end. Olympia because that painting represented the start of the move from Representation to Anti-illusionistic space, the move from Romanticism to Realism, and a move toward Feminism. Pruitt Igoe because the destruction of the towers was also, in part, the destruction of the Modernist dream of architecting Utopia.

Jane Jacobs

Jane Jacobs

Jane Jacobs’ book The Death and Life of Great American Cities was published in 1963. Even though it came out 9 years before the demolition of Pruitt Igoe, in her book Jacobs explains precisely why projects like Pruitt Igoe were doomed to fail. Jacobs spent her life campaigning for Mixed Use and against the segregation of life and activities. She wrote about the Spontaneous Ballet of The Street. About the interactions of people in homes, children, small grocery stores, barber shops.

Jacobs believed that in an active, diverse neighborhood everyone was safer because of the many Eyes on the Street. She fought against expressways that cut up neighborhoods and communities and delivered people from point to point with no experience of the intervening places. Jacobs argued that when you saw a newspaper ad for a bookstore where one location closed at 7pm and another at 11pm, that right there in the ad section you had all the data you needed to see how one neighborhood was an ill-cared-for commuter area and the other a more vibrant and alive community.

Your Activity

Your activity this week is to pick a neighborhood you care about. It might be a part of the CSULB campus. It might be where you live. It might be where you like to hang out. Any neighborhood area or small community will do.

  1. Go walk the area. Take a few pictures.
  2. Draw the area as it is now.
  3. Rethink the area: what’s working? What’s problematic? How might you make it better? How might you redesign it to serve more people or more diverse uses?
  4. Draw the area again, this time incorporating your redesign.
  5. Your blog post: Post both drawings and describe what you wanted to accomplish and how you tried to achieve it.

Your Tools

I was hoping to find a mobile app for you to draw with. I failed. The nice apps were either filled with ads or constantly demanding upgrade fees. The free apps I could find just weren’t that great. I like the idea of standing right in the neighborhood and drawing, but I didn’t find the right app.

If you do find a good mobile app you can use it. As with our Game Design project, you can use any Drawing App or Game Space to “draw” with. Since about 85% of you used SketchUp for that activity, it’s probably the best choice for this activity too. But you aren’t required to use it.

There are 2 ways to do it with SketchUp. If you want to use the 30-day free trial of SketchUp Pro, you can use “LayOut” which is ideal for drawing neighborhoods. Or you can use regular, free-forever SketchUp Make, which is also great for this activity. When you launch SketchUp, you can choose the “Urban Planning” template, in your choice of Feet or Meters.

Autocad Architecture
If you happen to be an Engineering student, or anyone engineering “friendly,” it’s probably worth a couple extra minutes to download a free copy of Autocad Architecture. Autodesk makes high-end, and expensive software like Maya, 3D Studio Max, Autocad, and more. Lucky you, as a CSULB student you can get a free, fully-functional copy of anything they make!

aerial image of Bram, France showing "circular" or "solar" layout of the town
Bram, France

Comments? Questions? What great art did you see, make, or experience today?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.