I have recently become interested in the correlation between the public occupation of a physical space in relationship with the contemporary impact of social media upon the perception of public engagement. You no longer need to venture outside of your house to “meet up” with your friend, instead you can simply go onto Facebook, twitter, Instagram, check your emails or insta-message with friends. You can easily see what your friends did last weekend, whom got in a relationship with whom, or likewise when a relationship ended. Not only can you interact with your 500 plus “friends” easily on these forms of social media, you can also meet and interact with strangers. But is this really a beneficial component of social media? How does this form of communication impact urban design, especially the necessity of public spaces within cities?
Whether you are in Denver (USA), Valparaíso, or Budapest the impact of social media is a global trend. Across the world people are using social media to connect and engaged with friends. I agree that sites such as Facebook are helpful in the sense of connecting people from various parts of the world, using social media as a platform for sharing information, technology and news, and additionally as a way to bring attention to events, NGOs, and other forms of advertising. However, social media has taken away the spark of spontaneity that is present when you meet or interact with someone face to face. I recently deleted my Facebook for the mere reason that I want to regain that spark within my own life. I want to talk with strangers, I want to observe life, I want to heighten my senses of the real world around me.
I want to challenge what the current definition of architecture and urban design means. Is it aiding in the process of creating spaces for social interaction? Or is further privatizing our lives? Is there a possibility to revitalize cities and buildings to provide spaces that bring back the concept physical interaction? I hope to explore these question through observations and analysis of public spaces not only within Budapest, but throughout other cities and countries.
Growing up in a small mountain town public transportation is very limited. There are obviously many benefits to living within a smaller and less dense environment such as accessibility to the natural environment. I have a huge appreciation and stewardship to the protecting and engaging with the natural environment. However, I have also found that there are limitations to living away from urbanized areas. Within the Vail Valley where I am from, the only form of public transportation is a bus system that runs across the county. It runs often but due to the distance between cities it often times seems easier and more convenient to take a car. The limitation of public transportation also plays out from a socio-ecomonic standpoint. Owning a car is very expense, unless you have the income and means to pay for a car, purchase insurance, fill the car with gas and all the other expenses associated with a car you can’t easily get around the Vail Valley. The development of Vail based around I-70 is also a major contributor to US cities being designed around the auto industry, instead of pedestrian accessibility.
Budapest on the other hand, a city that is over 1,000 years old, is a city that was developed around the Danube. The city wasn’t established based upon a grid of roads, but was established based upon trade routes. The city is divided into three segments; Buda, Óbuda, and Pest. Buda is consider the residential part of Budapest, Óbuda is the more historical part of Budapest located on the same side as Buda, and Pest is the commercial center of the city. The city is connected by seven bridges that join Buda and Pest together. The Pest side is much more dense with less space between building and city blocks. Buda is iconic with rolling green hills dotted with házak (houses).
Budapest’s first underground railway system is the second-oldest in the world only predated by the 1890 City & South London Railway (part of the London Underground). The iconic Line 1 Budapesti Metró (Budapest Metro) was completed in 1896 and was later declared a World Heritage Site in 2002. The development of transportation in-fracture obviously isn’t something new to the city. Is much easier to take a metro, villamos (tram), or busz (bus) to get around the city at time instead of being caught in traffic. By designing a city around people and public transit the urban environment dramatically changes. Instead of focusing the city life around creating parking lots, additional side street parking, wider roads, the city is designed around people. People take the time to walk down street and you can actively engage in civic life instead of viewing it through your car window as you zoom past it.
I’m interested in understanding more about the differences and similarities that exist between cities that are development around the auto-industry, like many cities in the US and cities that are developed around water-passages or cities that antacede the invention of the car. What can we learn from both cases? Are there successes and failures associated with both instances?