A city's edge: where the land meets water

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The Edge of a City is a philosophical region, where City and Natural Landscape overlap, existing without choice or expectation.'

Steven Holl

The interaction across boundaries sets up a dialogue that is highly complex and ambiguous. The periphery of a modern city presents itself as an erratic composition of fragments having little or no relationship to the existing fabric of the city. The mediating ground between natural landscape and a built—up environment, the city's edge is an opportunity for a new synthesis of urban life and form. But more often than not it is treated as 'leftover' space with the only reminder of its urbanity being its proximity to the maze of curvilinear superhighways. This 'leftover' edge condition becomes more acute when the natural boundary is water.

Ignoring fundamental aspects in designing waterfront environments has resulted in an architecture and urban development that is visually chaotic and disorganized, reflecting a lack of harmony with self and surrounding urban landscape.

The development of urban waterfronts has always been one of the ways to enhance the urban environment. Besides contributing to the economic, recreational, cultural and industrial development of the place, the architectural character has always adapted itself to the maritime context maintaining a continuous dialogue between the urban edge and the water.

Historically employed as a means of transport and trade, it is only now that the potential of river or sea in relation to waterfront land is being recognized for its recreational and cultural aspects.

Decreasing waterborne cargo and passenger travel has left a large section of waterfronts unused or underused. It is the effective and appropriate reuse of these sites that poses a challenge towards urban land use, and establishment of an identity, and environmental quality of a city.