Circulation: Intended vs. Unintended

Architects learn to manipulate circulation when designing a building. Circulation needs to be considered within enclosed spaces as well as how that corresponds with the circulation of its immediate surroundings. And when architectural values always respond to the requirements of social, cultural and economic values of its community, any change to this direct relationship impacts the circulation made. The resulting circulation, however, isn’t always outcome as manipulated or intended. French architecture in the 17th century, like the Palace of Versailles demonstrates how social values produced unintended circulation causing social segregation. In a less successful case, like the Eight Mile road in Detroit, socio-economical values result in unintended circulation, which manifests through a physical division of social and racial segregation. Though in contrast, modern Hong Kong society displays economic values determine Hong Kong’s highly dense and successful urban planning.





PALACE OF VERSAILLES: Circulation from hierarchal segregation

French court societies in the 17th century have cultural values demonstrated in architecture. The cultural value involved a self-presentation of beauty through housing, fashion, parties and transportation. King Louis XIV and his Palace of Versailles are prime examples that represented this practice in the 17th century. King Louis XIV reinforced his status by embellishing the Palace with the most prestigious furnishing and surrounded himself with the most elite members of the court. The king being one of the role models of the social values at the time, he claimed the Palace to be a public building for the rest of France to see the beauty of his Palace.

It was thought that the public should acknowledge royal life, so a few day-to-day routines like sleeping and dining were allowed observation from a distant within the palace. Though the palace was considered a public building, circulation for the public and the elite members of the Royal Court was different. Considering program and function, most members of the court was allowed access to most public rooms while the public was restricted to only ones that were on exhibit for beauty. This organized a specific sequence of spaces for each the public and court members. The more decently dressed citizens were allowed access to the public squares, gardens and the ‘public’ spaces within the palace.

The creation of the Hall of Mirrors marks the start social segregation through the creation of circulation. Though the Hall of Mirrors was the main reason the King decided to make the palace public, it was mainly used for state receptions, court meetings, and as a networking center for the royal court limiting access to the public. King Louis XIV’s decision to claim the Palace public created more types of circulation and due to the hierarchal differences (Monarchy, upper class and middle class) specific and separate circulation was created for each social group. Subtly generating a physical separation of these social groups.













Palace of Versailles: Public Spaces (Dash) vs Private spaces (Blocks)







THE EIGHT MILE ROAD: Circulation from cultural and social segregation

The Eight Mile road in Detroit, Michigan is an example of an unsuccessful architectural move that lead to racial segregation. The road runs for approximately eight miles, hence its given name and the road physical represents a division of two communities since its creation in 1928.













A Map showing the population by racial ethnicity around Eight Mile


The diagram shows a clear separation between the black and white residents. The two distinct communities are not only divided into cultural but also social groups along the entire eight miles; the rich Wayne and Washtenaw counties from the poorer Macomb, Livingston, and Oakland counties The 2000 U.S. census showed that the “median family income for the city of Detroit, and 81.55% African American area, is $33,853 with 26.1% of its residents below the poverty line”. On the other hand, the north region of Eight Mile, Oakland County is “82.75% white region, with a median family income of $75,540 with only 5.5% of its residents below the poverty line” according to Detroit Historical Society. Not only does the racial difference cause a split but the financial imbalances triggers the gap to grow. Due to the split the circulation within the region of the city is disconnected.

A non-profit organization, ‘Eight Mile Boulevard Association,’ was founded in 1993 to improve the conditions though transportation and business promotions along the Eight Mile by linking the private and business sectors on the road. Also some middle class black Americans are moving north to the suburbs, however, a strong socioeconomic divide still remains. The Eight Mile demonstrates a clear example of socio-economical differences causing a separation of social harmony along the Eight Mile road. There is no interaction between the two dividing parties and as disconnection of circulation continues, this could lead to further segregation in the future.



HONG KONG URBAN PLANNING: Circulation from economical advancement

In comparison, Hong Kong displays a more successful example of a complex circulation system created based from their economic values. Hong Kong is one of the most successful cities today in terms of urban planning. Cities like Hong Kong thrive on the basis of economical stability, therefore aims to create prospering quality of living as well as business-orientated environment with control. The necessity to strike balance between housing, business, industries, transportation and recreation put Hong Kong though a socio-economical and political transition since its independent sovereignty in 1997. Also, Hong Kong’s limitation in space and reconstruction of economy requires it’s urban planning to be highly dense.

Due to its many limitations Hong Kong tries to take advantage of vertical urban planning. By creating such tight spaces, connections between regions are constructed with complex designs. Hong Kong has specifically planned elevated walkways within the city, influenced by vertically planning, that connect between roads, open spaces and the different types of buildings.












Hong Kong’s complex walkway networks

This complex design creates a complicated but sophisticated system of networks between residential, governmental, industrial, commercial spaces. The complex circulation system Hong Kong developed not only works for their goal to create life of prosperity but also for its economic growth, which continues to thrive today.


Throughout history, social, cultural and economical values have displayed its impact on manipulated circulation. During the 17th century, the unintended circulation formed from social values creates segregation. The unintended, disconnected circulation along the Eight Mile road in Detroit continues to keep the communities apart due to social and racial differences whilst Hong Kong provides a more integrated environment with a complex circulation created from economical values. Though all social, cultural and economical values created unintended circulation, they all impact the communities differently. Perhaps the time period at which these circulations were created also need to be taken into account of its impact on the resulting circulation. And whether they would be successful in terms of their primary goals are still at question.


















Chateau De Versailles. “La Chambre du Roi en.” Accessed October 13, 2013,


Chateau De Versailles. “The Hall of Mirrors.” Accessed October 13, 2013,


“Eight Mile Road | Detroit Historical Society.” Detroit Historical Society | Where the past is present. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2013. <>.


Massey, Jonathan. “Court Societies.” Class lecture from School of Architecture, Syracuse, NY, September 11, 2013


Massey, Jonathan. “Modernizations.” Class lecture from School of Architecture, Syracuse, NY, September 13, 2013


PBS Home. “Mirrors.” Accessed October 13, 2013,


Youtube. “The Rise and Fall of Versailles,” YouTube Video, 53:01, posted by “prussianeagle”, 14 July, 2013,


Cities Without Ground: A Hong Kong Guide Book,2012


Wikipedia, “Hong Kong” “Last Accessed November 17, 2013.

Post a comment

You may use the following HTML:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>