Streetscape Territories


director: Kris W. B. Scheerlinck, Ph.D.

Etymologically, streetscapes refer to systems of streets. Because of this, streetscape territories allude to the existence and importance of territorial systems, related to the street. Examples of these territorial systems could be a set of properties, of which the exterior boundaries are constantly questioned and tested by the neighbors, or a house or a storefront as part of a shared portico in a street. We might think of a courtyard or passage commonly used by a restricted group of neighbors in a residential area, or a square as part of a succession or set of collective spaces within a city. Streetscape Territories is the common denominator of a series of research projects that deal with the territorial organization of urban projects, explored in different contexts, studied as part of different cultures and defined by different social networks.

Independent from the scale or functional category, streetscapes are defined and dependent on systems of adjacent, overlapped and integrated territories, controlled by multiple agents. Territoriality, permeability and proximity indeed became the real protagonists of urban growth or transformation. Because of that, the interest of the contemporary discourse on streetscapes is no longer focusing on the aesthetics of a perfect set design. Neither does the quality of a streetscape depend on the size of the constituent building lots or the dimensions of its buildings. The built environment, together with all its constituent elements and related dimensions, is increasingly defined by access control and its inherent social networks.

As was already explored in the nineteen sixties as a reaction to modern planning recipes, streetscapes can be seen as configurations, simple or complex ones, with physical, visual and territorial factors defining a morphological and functional display of urban cues, to be coded and decoded, according to the present social and cultural framework of the neighborhood. This model however needs to be updated, according to new spatial and social phenomena. Streetscape Territories, understood as an international research community wants to take this particular challenge as a starting point.

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