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The tour: evaluation of the sensory and formal qualities of the urban environment as part of the criteria of walkability. Taipei City as a case study. (2015)

TESIS: (Thesis)

Title: The route: evaluation of the sensory and formal qualities of the urban environment as part of the criteria of walkability. The city of Taipei as a case study. (2015)

  • Author(s): Laura Fernández Muñoz.
  • Director(s): Aurora Galán Hergueta.
  • Summary: This research addresses the analysis of the qualities of the urban environment that affect the perceptual experience of its journey. The interests that motivate it have to do with the recovery of the city for the walker and is within a broader framework of interests such as that of the sustainable city. First, the theme of the tour experience is contextualized through different disciplines such as film, literature, architecture, urban is, landscape architecture, psychology and environmental aesthetics. In this way, the argument is reinforced around the role that the form and other sensory stimuli play in the experience of the space, whether urban, architectural or natural.
    The experience that people live when moving through an environment is defined by infinite factors ranging from the physical configuration of the environment traveled, to the cultural learning of the person who walks; from the sensory stimuli that are received, to the physical conditions that enable the functionality of the route; from the subtleties of a sequential nature that unveil as we go, to the hygrothermal conditions at the time of displacement. However, factors such as the motivations and personal attentions of the one who walks, as well as his memories of previous experiences, desires, imagination and mood, also define our experience as we walk that is undoubtedly linked to our personality and therefore cannot be accurate to someone else's. Aware that all these factors merge into a global phenomenon, and that they do not occur in life separately, we have strived to independent sensory and formal qualities, only for research purposes. The importance of the topic to be investigated lies in the connections between the qualities of the built environment and the daily experience of its journey, to the extent that such linkage establishes relationships with the quality of life, the health of citizens and their feelings of identity. In this sense, the key problem encountered is that if the definition of the experience of the urban journey is too broad, becomes nebulous and inoperative, but if too much is needed, important variables can be excluded. We have concentrated our efforts on finding a means of making operational the study of aspects that, by their very nature, are difficult to control and apply in practice. In this sense, the field of study that combines interest in the subject, scientific production and practical vocation, is that of the walkability of cities. For this reason, we have placed our work within the criteria framework that this field sets for assessing a walkable environment. However, we have found that work on walkability tends to develop within the discipline of transportation planning and often following the same guidelines as motorized transport research. In addition, the tendency to provide numerical data resulting from controlled measurement of variables, to support initiatives within the areas of decision-making, leads with it a progressive departure from the most subtle and close aspects of the experience people and the specificity of the places. For these reasons, we have considered it necessary to deepen the pedestrian experience by exploring other lines of work such as the habitability of cities, policies carried out to improve the quality of public space or certifications of sustainability in the field of urban planning. The graphical approaches to the representation and simulation of urban routes have also been studied for their importance in communication and promotion of walking. In order to detect the problems involved in the definition of a tool to assess, operationally, the quality of the experience of the urban journey, the proposed valuation methodology has been based on the combination of different methods and the conjugation of three approaches: evaluation by the researcher as an expert, evaluation made by the researcher in the user role and assessment by the citizen. The development of this research has been conditioned by the intention to apply what has been studied in a practical case. The framework of criteria that the work on the walkability of cities establishes for a walkable environment can be summed up in the following factors: mixture of uses, population density and relatively high building, destinations accessible on foot, a high degree of safety regarding traffic and criminal acts, high functionality (dimensions, slopes, etc.) and attractiveness. Once the city model in which research is relevant on the qualities of the urban environment responsible for its perceived as attractive has been defined, the city of Taipei was chosen, among other reasons, to meet the remaining requirements. With regard to the case study, the objective is to identify strengths and weaknesses of the central area of Taipei City in terms of the perceptual experience it provides to the walkers.
  • Abstract: This research addresses the analysis of the qualities of the urban environment that affect the perceptual experience of walking. The interests lying behind it is related to the recovery of the city for pedestrians, and is framed within the sustainable city framework of interests. Firstly, the issue of the experience of walking is contextualized through different disciplines such as film, literature, architecture, urban planning, landscape architecture, environmental psychology and aesthetics. This way, the argument about the role that form and other sensory stimuli play in the experience of space, whether it is urban, architectural or natural, is strengthened. The walking experience of people is defined by factors ranging from the physical configuration of the environment to the cultural background of the person who walks, from the sensory stimuli that are perceived to the physical conditions that enable the functionality of the walk, from the subtleties of sequential nature that are revealed as we move around to hygrothermal conditions at the specific time of walking. Nevertheless, factors such as personal motivations and attentions of the walker, as well as memories of past experiences, desires, imagination and mood, also defines our walking experience that is undoubtedly linked to our personality and, therefore, it cannot be The same as other people's experience. Being aware that all these factors come together in a total phenomenon and that, in real life, they do not exist separately, we focused on separating sensory and formal qualities only for research purposes. The importance of the research topic lies in the connections between the qualities of the built environment and the quotidian experience of walking through it, to the extent that such link establishes relationships with the quality of life, health and feelings of identity of citizens. In this sense, the key problem encountered is that, if the definition of urban walking experience is too broad, it becomes nebulous and non-operational, but if it is too precise, important variables can be excluded. We concentrated our efforts on finding a way to operationalize the study of questions that, by their very nature, are difficult to control and apply in practice. In this regard, the field of study that combines interest in the topic, scientific production and practical purpose, is the walkability of cities. For this reason, we placed our work within the framework of the set of criteria that this field establishes for assessing an environment as walkable. However, we found that works on walkability tends to be developed within the discipline of transportation planning and often following the same guidelines that research on motorized transport. Furthermore, tendency to provide numerical data as a result of the controlled measurement of variables in order to support initiatives in decision making areas, involves a progressive distancing from proximitthe and the most subtle aspects of the experience of people, and from the specificity of places. For these reasons, we considered it was necessary to deepen into the study of pedestrians experience, by exploring other lines of work such as the livability of cities, implemented policies to improve the quality of the public space or sustainability certifications in urbanism. Graphic representation and simulation of urban walks are also studied due to their important role in communication and promotion of walking. In order to find the issues involved in defining a tool assess, in an operational way, the quality of urban walking experience, the proposed assessment methodology is based on the combination of different methods and the synthesis of three approaches: assessment by the researcher as expert, assessment by the researcher playing the role of user and assessment by the citizens. The development of this research has been conditioned by our intention of applying it in a case study. The framework of criteria that works on walkability of cities set, can be summarized in the following factors: mix of uses, population and building density rather high, high levels of safety in terms of traffic and crime, high functionality (dimensions, slopes, etc.) and attractiveness. After defining the model of city in which it is relevant to conduct an investigation on the attractive qualities that are responsible of theness of the environment; Taipei City was selected because it meets the remaining requirements, among other reasons. Regarding the case study, the goal is to identify strengths and weaknesses in the central area of Taipei City in terms of the perceptual experience of pedestrians.
  • Link: http://oa.upm.es/39875/

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