Town Plan for the Development of Selbby Walter Gropius, The Architects Collaborative, The Architects Collaborative
"A town, as a living organism, is subject to continuous change. Its basic structure generated by the character of the life of its population constitutes its identity. Its growth cannot be left to chance but should be consciously developed and controlled by act of will. The final aim of successful planning is to raise the standard of town life which will express—practically and aesthetically—the pride of its inhabitants."
The development of a master plan for Selb, a town of 20,000 in northeast Bavaria, was the last extended work of Walter Gropius, undertaken in collaboration with other members of his firm. This book presents that plan, together with the concurrently developed traffic control system. The principal designers and the town's mayor have contributed written accounts, but the greater part of the presentation takes the form of multicolored graphs, maps, photographs, and drawings.
The plan for the town proper telescopes forward to encompass four stages of growth. The separate proposals for these are not to be implemented in terms of a rigid timetable but are geared to the rate of population growth. Since most of the town was destroyed in a disastrous fire in the middle of the last century, few structures of historic or architectural interest remain. It was nevertheless decided that as many of the existing buildings as possible be incorporated as integral parts of the new plans. This is especially true of the envisioned town core, designed with magnified attention to detail, which is to include shopping and service facilities, and malls where pedestrians are able to reassert their right of way: vehicular traffic is excluded. This is the first requirement if the "heart" of town, as Gropius liked to call it, is to be revitalized. He notes that "Many plazas of old towns have lost their former meaning to serve as receptacle for public life since the automobile has pushed the pedestrian against their walls."
A basic feature of the planned traffic network is a ring road crossed by three major thoroughfares that in turn intersect with each other inside the ring. Since each of these three streets crosses the other two at different points, they circumscribe an area roughly triangular in shape. This is the area that constitutes the town core.
Selb is known as the "city of porcelain," and it was the head of one of its most prominent family firms, Philip Rosenthal, who was instrumental in initiating the negotiations that brought Gropius and his firm to the project. But diversification of industry is one of of the goals of the town administration; it is this consideration that makes intelligent town planning at just this point imperative.
- MIT Press
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