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Old July 14th, 2017, 12:26 AM   #1
emperormadness
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Urban architecture variety within countries

I am not sure I picked the best title for this thread, but I was wondering whether people here have any thoughts on the regional architectural variety (one could say richness) that can be found within various European countries.

In other words, in which countries may one notice significant differences in the urban fabric of cities from different regions? Which ones are the most varied?

I've been traveling for the past few months (mostly on google maps street view ) and I have a feeling that countries like Germany and Italy have much more regional variation than France or England, but I am wondering if other people share this impression, and what explanations might exist for this. I feel that in Germany Munich is a world apart from Hamburg or Berlin or Dresden; in Italy Venice, Florence, Rome and Naples or Palermo are also quite different. On the other hand, looking at various French cities such as Rennes in Normandy, Dijon in Burgundy or Bordeaux in Aquitaine I felt that most of them have somewhat Parisian-style centers, even though the regions have historically been quite distinct one from another (even different states up to a point). Rennes only has a handful of Brittany-style half-timbered houses (which are gorgeous by the way), and the same is true for Dijon. Strasbourg seemed to me as one of the few large cities still quite different from the other ones.

In England one can sense the same thing: many of the older medieval towns/cities like Canterbury, Salisbury, Chester or York share a similar urban fabric (at least at first sight), while the larger industrial cities such as Birmingham, Manchester or Leeds all have a mix of Victorian and postwar centers.

What could be reasons for greater or lower architectural variety? Historical fragmentation such as that of Germany must definitely be factored in, but I am wondering whether there were any attempts at systematizing the cities early on (in France perhaps) for cultural or economic reasons?
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Old July 14th, 2017, 01:32 AM   #2
alexandru.mircea
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France has the most diversity that I have seen anywhere. It's mainly because France is a sum of regions that have quite different histories, and that could have been different countries entirely if things had gone differently, from a historical point of view.

You have the old, simple white architecture in Paris and central France, which was juxtaposed later with the beige and ornate Hausmannian buildings in the modern era. You have red brick architecture in the North (Picardy and Flanders). You have white wood-frame houses in Normandy and colourful wood-frame houses in Alsace. Alsace also has the striking red Vosges sandstone architecture of later days. There is Brittany with its grey stone archictecture, which reminds one a bit of Scottish granite architecture. You have the typical colourfully painted mediterranean houses in the South. You also have those incredible buildings in Aix with a stone of the colour of the gold ingot. You've got the extra-terrestrial looking dark black architecture from Clermont-Ferrand (volcanic rock). There's the "pink city" of Toulouse, which is a unique middle of the road between more Northern French architecture and the light red brick cities of Italy like Vicenza. There is Besançon with its unique blue/beige spotted Chailluz stone that helped build houses with a striking Central European look, like they could be from Transylvania. There are the grey houses from the Pyrenees, which btw don't look anything like the aforementioned grey architecture of Brittany. There are the modernist concrete projects of Villeurbaine or Le Havre. There are the old historical Paris suburbs which are an amazing mix of architectures, from the old "meulière" stone villas to art-deco to a lot of buildings in the so-called "London stock brick" (which is a sort of greeny yellow brick).

In terms of cities and variety inside of one city, I'd say the best I've seen myself is Glasgow. It's a wonderful mix of grey Georgian, beige Victorian and red (stone) Victorian, brick architecture, modernism, white classical buildings in a more English taste (I'd say), postwar/contemporary... I adored it. I'm no expert but my suspicion is that the reason for the diversity there was the laissez-faire / pro-business attitude of municipal policies. There are threads about lost Scottish architecture and it would appear that before the several waves of destruction by demolishing along the modern era, Scottish cities were more coherent and more uniform. But I do adore the lively "mess" that Glasgow ended up being. Definitely one of my favourite cities.

One piece of advice I would have to give is to NOT replace what should be visceral sensorial experiences of cities in real life with Street View "trips". Street View is great in many ways but is very misleading in this regard. In time I had the occasion to compare my experiences and my photos with what Street View shows, and the conclusion is always that they're two completely different things. Here's one example I previously posted on SSC:

Quote:
Originally Posted by alexandru.mircea View Post
I love exploring by street view. I look up places where I want to visit (starting with the way from the railway station to the place where I'll be staying), places around rents that I see on realestate websites, cities where to potentially live (like, looking up the way from the potential employer to the potential home), etc. I also use it for the Guess The City games here, and for retracing the path of my walks in places that I visited. This last one often highlights the negative aspects of Street View, the poor quality pictures which sometime make the experience of a nice place to look really dreadful. For example, here is a pic I made this summer in my trip in Provence (and that I just posted in a photo thread here):

image hosted on flickr

Rue Roux Alpheran, Aix-en-Provence by Alexandru Mircea, on Flickr

And here is how the place looks in Street View:



I guarantee you the feeling you would get in reality would be the one you feel looking at the pic, instead of that from the street view cap.
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Old July 14th, 2017, 07:38 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply!

You might very well be right about France, especially since you rightly point out that its fragmented history is a good premise for varied architecture across the country. It's also very true that google street view is no replacement for real visits, in fact I was exactly hoping that people who have actually visited some of these places (and who know more on this subject) might be able to clarify this. I am wondering though to what extent what you said is visible in the big cities, as opposed to smaller towns? I read that Rennes in Brittany was completely rebuild in the 18th century after a big fire, and at that time the region was already firmly under French control; Bordeaux was also rebuilt during that period if I recall correctly, and its UNESCO page cites the city as an excellent example of 18th century urban construction. But overall yes, I think you are largely right, significant differences do exist, I just did not notice them.

On the other hand, I did physically see a lot of places in England and Scotland, I generally stand by my opinion that there cities of similar categories tend to look quite similarly, unless they were terribly disfigured by wartime bombing or postwar development. Of course at a closer look one does notice differences, but I would say the difference between Hamburg and Munich is much bigger than that between Glasgow and Birmingham. And of course there are historical reasons for it, but I wonder if the British cities were more diverse before the Victorian era.

later edit: one could also consider the difference between pre-war (or the small current historic area) Frankfurt and Munich; the difference still seems much bigger that differences in England;
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Old July 15th, 2017, 12:32 AM   #4
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A key reason why Germany hosts some of the most diverse architecture city to city is that Germany was a group of independent kingdoms and duchies that strove for unique identities. In addition, the weather and industry affected how the Hanseatic league cites, for example, emerged as well as the local resources and building materials. There were far greater variations in geographies (topographies, weather, resources) among the German states than on the British isles, or even in France.
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Old July 15th, 2017, 12:27 PM   #5
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Rennes holds about 2000 old timber-framed houses which is the record (for France at least), so I can only expect that it has a good mix between old and new. I am planning to visit soon, as the TGV now connects it in a very good time to Paris. As for Bordeaux, it is the most important French city I have yet to visit since moving to France, so I can't really comment. But overall my impressions are based on visits of large and medium sized cities because these are easier to reach and usually hold a larger concentration of interesting stuff.
The issue of city size is interesting; I think France is the least urbanized country in Western Europe, with the largest number of people living in smaller towns and cities, so smaller cities still hold relevance in a lot of ways. A lot of the key cities of the medieval and classical age never even got into the development process of the modern era (or got into it but lost the competition the nearest regional centre), and they are quite small now. This can mean that smaller cities may have better preserved pre-modern architecture. Brittany, since we mentioned it, is an interesting example, as its two big cities (Rennes and Nantes) are rather marginal in geographical position compared to the heart of the region, and they also experienced consistent development and change ever since the early modern era, so the grey stone architecture I mentioned as specific to Brittany can be found in the smaller (but famous and iconic) cities and towns from the heartland.
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Old July 15th, 2017, 09:26 PM   #6
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Within Europe I would say that France and Germany have the most diversity or difference in architecture from city to city or part of the country to other part of the country.
France, because it is so vast, reaching from the North Sea to the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, as well as France having incorporated regions that were once part of different cutures/countries, like Alpes-Maritime or Alsace.
Germany, because it was fractured for hundreds of years into different kingdoms, duchies, principalities or free cities. For the longest time in history kingdoms like Prussia, Saxony or Bavaria were sovereign states with their own unique culture and architecture. Germany as one country is pretty young in comparison.
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Old July 22nd, 2017, 01:54 AM   #7
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Interesting topic, for France many cities were partly transformed by urban projects taken by centralised authority during the 17th-18th centuries and during Haussmannian period (starting in the second half of 19th century), sometimes giving very similar look.

- For example, similar cities views of the 18th century :

Place Royale, Reims :


Place du Parlement-de-Bretagne, Rennes :


Place de la Bourse, Bordeaux :


- Haussmanian examples :

Place de la Comedie, Montpellier :


Rue de la République, Lyon :


Passy, Paris :
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Old August 8th, 2017, 05:53 PM   #8
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I think that Spain is the country with more architecture variety, even in a only city there are a lot of diferent styles. In other countries like france or italy the architecture is more Homogeneous and similar.
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Old August 10th, 2017, 08:04 AM   #9
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Germany from North to South

The North (inculding former territories)


Lübeck



Bremen



Lüneburg



Rostock



Schwerin



Danzig


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Old August 10th, 2017, 11:31 AM   #10
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Northern-Central, west of the Elbe River

Hameln



Hannover



Hildesheim



Münster




Goslar



Quedlinburg


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Old August 10th, 2017, 01:53 PM   #11
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Central, west of the Elbe River

West of Rhine

Aachen



Trier



Mainz



Cochem






East of Rhine

Herborn



Marburg



Alsfeld



Limburg



Frankfurt




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Old August 10th, 2017, 03:01 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by emperormadness View Post

In other words, in which countries may one notice significant differences in the urban fabric of cities from different regions? Which ones are the most varied?
Croatia has a lot of different styles.

For example:

Dalmatian cities have buildings that have exterior made mostly out of stone:


Hvar by Steve Barowik, on Flickr

The northern part of Croatian coast, mostly Istria and Kvarner region have buildings that have plaster on most of it's exterior:


Rijeka - Korzo by libertin_82, on Flickr

The mountain regions of Lika and Gorski Kotar have typical timber houses:


Stara kuća u Kuparima Gornjim by MountMan Photo, on Flickr

Regions that separate mountain regions from the rest of continental Croatia are commonly mix of timber and stone:


Rastoke by René Brumoso, on Flickr

Swamp or dense forest areas in continental Croatia often have timber houses:


_MG_4366.jpg by nbowmanaz, on Flickr

Most of continental Croatia has similar architecture style typical for central Europe, but it depends on what minority had most influence in that area. These differences are most commonly seen in rural areas, cities are somewhat similar.
For example, Hungarian/Austrian influence in eastern Croatia:


HRBiH_170 by Johannes von Nepomuk, on Flickr

There are a lot more styles, but I really don't have much time to present it all.
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Old August 10th, 2017, 04:31 PM   #13
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Central, west of the Elbe River
Part 2

East of Rhine

Erfurt



Weimar



Gera



Coburg




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Old August 10th, 2017, 05:22 PM   #14
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Awesome Tolbert! I was actually going to make an overview of regional architecture styles in Germany too, but postponed it, because it is a lot of work. So, all the more props to you.

I'd suggest though that you rather concentrate on regional architecture/cityscapes that are really distinctive in style. You are imo diluting the point you want to make by pooling so many different looking cities into one category. For example Koblenz and Trier don't really belong in the same category as Aachen.

I was actually going to start with Aachen (and surroundings), which is a good example of a region being very close to Belgium in architecture:

20140526-IMG_6068 by Blind Viewer, on Flickr

Aachen by anval0, on Flickr

Townhall in Aachen by John Cher Ping Koh, on Flickr



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Old August 11th, 2017, 02:15 PM   #15
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Actually i tried to show, how architecture is changing from north to south and tried to give "typical" examples of the region, als long as they still exist.

By the way, if you plaster the blank stone in your baroque examples, and change the window framing to red or yello sandstone, they would totaly fit in the western and south-western regions of germany, cause the basic look of the architectural elements is the same, most time only the material got "regionalized"

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Old August 11th, 2017, 03:35 PM   #16
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[SIZE=5]Central, east of the Elbe River (mostly)
(including former terrietories)

Cottbus





[SIZE=2][B]Hirschberg(Jelenia Gora)



Bresslau(Wroclaw)




Görlitz




Bautzen




Dresden

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Old August 11th, 2017, 04:19 PM   #17
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South-East
Part 1

Würzburg




Fürth



Nürnberg




Ansbach



Nördlingen




Regensburg




Straubing



Landshut






[/SIZE][/B][/SIZE]
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Old August 11th, 2017, 07:19 PM   #18
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It is not of a big difference between these regions except for the difference between northern coast cities and the rest
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Old August 11th, 2017, 09:06 PM   #19
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@Tolbert: Great pictures, it's nice you've taken so much time to post all of them here to illustrate differences in urban landscape.

^ I don't agree that there isn't much difference apart from the North-South divide; the half-timbered houses of Lower Saxony (like those in Hannover or Hildesheim) are quite different from those further north, such as in Stade; then Westphalian cities like Munster or Osnabruck have their own style of stone-made guild/patrician houses; then you have Aachen with its Belgian-style architecture (Tiaren, thanks for those pictures; I never realized how much Flemish city halls resemble the Rathaus in Aachen), you have Mainz or Trier which are also quite different; Frankfurt used to have its own kind of (plastered) half-timbered buildings, some of which I can still be seen in the Romerberg, or in the new Dom-Romer quarter; cities in the southern part of Bavaria have very few half-timbered buildings, whereas in Nuremberg one can still find plenty of interesting examples. Then Dresden's late baroque altstadt has very little in common with the old towns of Bavarian or Western cities; Lepizig is also different, and then so is Erfurt and some of the Thuringian cities. I think that despite wars and destruction and all sorts of urban redevelopment, one can still see a lot of architectural variety across Germany, a legacy of the country's fragmented history.
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Old August 12th, 2017, 12:17 AM   #20
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Examples of different styles in France :

Arras, north :


Toulouse, southwest :


Strasbourg, eastern :

Locronan, north-western :


Annecy, southeastern :


Menton, southeastern :


Saumur, western :


Honfleur, northwestern :


Nancy, north-eastern :


Dijon, eastern :


Lyon, east-central :


Saint-Jean-de-Luz, south-western :

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