Search results for " bike lanes"

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New study: trail-oriented development improves public health and property values
We all know there's value in transit-oriented-development, but what about trail-oriented development? The nonprofit Urban Land Institute (ULI) released a study that examines how active transportation—biking and walking infrastructure—can work in urban planning, development, and land-use projects. The report highlights ten case studies (a blend of mixed-use, multi-family, and residential projects) in cities across the the world, from Des Moines, Iowa, to Singapore. European cities such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam have some of the highest percentages of people who commute by bike. Therefore, they've long factored this type of design into their urban development. In the U.S., cities like New York, Seattle, Portland, and Washington D.C. are investing in bike lanes. What happens when officials, urban planners, and developers, and other professionals involved in the built environment put a premium on safe sidewalks, cycle paths, the pedestrian, and the cyclist? Trail-oriented development can create major savings in health costs. “In terms of health and wellness benefits, the report points to savings of $103 million (US dollars) in Sydney due to the increase in bike trips and reduced traffic congestion,” writes the ULI in a release. “Also, in Philadelphia, a 2011 study found that residents’ use of biking trail system avoids $199 million per year in direct medical costs and $596 million in indirect costs.” The ULI report looks at global active transportation infrastructure from multiple perspectives: highways for bicycles in Copenhagen, bike sharing in Paris and China, and The Circuit Trails bike paths in Philadelphia. Real estate also figures prominently in the report. In addition to supporting health and wellness, urban and suburban trail systems help spur real estate development and increase property values. You can read the full report here.
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Epic Chicago development along Lake Michigan stalls as partners split
As developer and property owner part ways, one of Chicago’s largest planned developments gets put on indefinite hold. The Lakeside development, planned for the former South Works United States Steel mill site in Chicago’s South Shore, was to be a $4 billion, 369-acre mixed-use development. Twelve years in the making, the projects was being developed through a partnership between Chicago-based developer McCaffery Interests and the land’s owner Pittsburgh-based United States Steel. Plans called for upwards of 13,000 residential units, over 17 million square feet of commercial space, 125 acres of public land, and a 1,500-slip marina. Situated in the formerly industrial area along the lake, tens of millions of dollars have already been invested in the project, including rerouting a public road. Though the Illinois Department of Transportation planned to reroute the road before McCaffery first presented the Skidmore Owings and Merrill (SOM) Master plan in 2004, when built, the $64 million improvement anticipated the development. The road includes parallel parking spots surfaced in permeable pavement, high-efficiency LED streetlights, and bike lanes. Both Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel were on hand for the much anticipated ribbon cutting for that new road back in 2014. With no development, that road will continue to sit mostly empty. But now with the land's future in limbo, local 10th Ward Ald. Susan Sadlowski-Garza and McCaffery are hoping entice George Lucas to move the much embattled Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts to the site. Ald. Sadlowski-Garza and McCaffery also had lobbied to have the Obama Presidential Library located on the site. Though the project is stalled for the moment, even if it was to move forward, it would be a long time in the making. According to earlier press releases, the plan called for at least six phases and between 25–45 years to finish.
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State of the City
The fabric of New York—from shoreline to skyline—is getting a thread-count upgrade, much of it due to the success of ongoing projects like Vision Zero, coastal resiliency efforts, and a spate of new public ventures coming down the pike. In his annual State of the City address in early February, Mayor Bill de Blasio championed accomplishments from 2015 and shed light on what’s to come: New Yorkers will see projects and policies that could facilitate new commutes, provide civic and green spaces in the outer boroughs, and reshape neighborhood density via rezoning. Streets and Shores
Two large-scale, controversial rezoning proposals, Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning For Quality and Affordability (ZQA), reached the City Council early February. Councilmembers heard public testimony for and against the measures, which are intended to increase the amount of affordable housing and create more interesting streetscapes in exchange for increased density in special districts. The full Council will vote on the proposals—the most sweeping zoning changes since 1961—in March.
Rezoning may change the look of the streets, and it’s almost guaranteed more pedestrians would be around to see it. Since the launch of Vision Zero three years ago, traffic fatalities have fallen annually, with a drop of almost nine percent between last year and 2014. (Although City Hall may not want readers to know that traffic-related injuries spiked by more than 2,000 incidents in the same period.)
The initiative is New York City’s version of an international campaign to end traffic-related deaths through better street design and harsher penalties for traffic offenders, and it has a record-setting $115 million budget for 2016. More than a quarter of that money (plus $8.8 million from the NYC Department of Transportation’s capital budget) will go to road improvements in Hunters Point in Long Island City, Queens, especially at busy nodes along main thoroughfares Vernon Boulevard and Jackson Avenue.
The low-lying neighborhoods are some of many flood-prone areas that will benefit from the $20 billion in climate-change-resiliency measures that launched following Hurricane Sandy. Included in that figure is a massive project coming out of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rebuild by Design competition to protect Manhattan from rising seas. The City has selected AECOM to lead the design and build of these coastal resiliency measures, formerly known as the Dryline (and before that, BIG U). The project team includes Dewberry, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and ONE Architecture. BIG and ONE provided the original vision for the 10-mile-long project, and are now working on Phase One, the $335 million East Side Coastal Resiliency Project. That phase, which should go into constriction next year, deploys a series of berms and floodwalls from East 23rd Street to Montgomery Street on the island’s Lower East Side. Phase Two extends the project from Montgomery Street around the tip of Manhattan up to Harrison Street in Tribeca. Although those ten miles of coastline could be safer, the other 510 would still have a lot to fear from global warming. Fortunately, the Department of Design and Construction’s Build It Back RFP is having an immediate impact on those who lost homes to Sandy. By last October, the program, which rebuilds homes ravaged in the 2012 hurricane, broke ground on around 1,900 projects and finished construction on 1,200 others.
Targeted Reinvestment The recovery impetus extends beyond the property line and out into neighborhoods. In his speech, the mayor singled out three outer-borough neighborhoods—Ocean Hill–Brownsville, the South Bronx, and Far Rockaway—for targeted reinvestment. Civic architecture often heralds or spurs financial interest, and these neighborhoods happen to be the sites of three public projects by well-known architects in plan or under construction. Studio Gang is designing a 20,000-square-foot Fire Department of New York station and training facility in Ocean Hill–Brownsville in Brooklyn, while BIG is designing a new NYPD station house in Melrose in the Bronx. In Queens, far-out Far Rockaway, battered by Sandy and isolated from the rest of the city by a long ride on the A train, is anticipating both a $90.3 million, Snøhetta-designed public library and $91 million in capital funds for improvements in its downtown on main commercial roads like Beach 20th Street. On and Beyond the Waterfront In New York, a trip to the “city” is a trip to Manhattan. This idea, however, doesn’t reflect how New Yorkers traverse the city today: Older, Manhattan-centric commuting patterns at the hub are becoming outmoded as development intensifies in the outer boroughs. It’s estimated that this year bike-sharing service Citi Bike will have 10 million rides. The system is adding 2,500 bikes in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens to accommodate the increased ridership. The East River ferry service will begin this year, knitting the Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan waterfronts together in patterns not seen since the 1800s. Along the same waterway, the project that’s raised the most wonder (and ire) is the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX), a streetcar line that would link 12 waterfront neighborhoods from Sunset Park, Brooklyn, to Astoria, Queens. The project proposal comes from a new nonprofit, Friends of the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (FBQX), which first surfaced in January of this year. Its founders include the heads of transportation advocacy and policy groups Regional Plan Association and Transportation Alternatives; directors of neighborhood development groups; and real estate professionals like venture capitalist Fred Wilson and Helena Durst of the Durst Organization. The full plan, commissioned by FBQX and put together by consultants at New York–based engineering and transportation firm Sam Schwartz, is not available to the public, although the company’s eponymous president and CEO shed some light on the plan with AN. “Within an area that has so many [transit] connections, what we are addressing is transit that goes north–south,” explained Schwartz. His firm’s plan calls for a 17-mile route that roughly parallels the coastline, dipping inland to link up to hubs like Atlantic Terminal and the Brooklyn Navy Yard. At a projected cost of $1.7 billion, why not choose the bus, or bus rapid transit (BRT)? The team considered five other options before deciding on the streetcar, Schwartz explained. “The projected ridership is over 50,000 [passengers] per day, while ridership for the bus and BRT maxes out at 35,000 to 40,000 per day.” Streetcars, Schwartz elaborated, can make fine turns on narrow streets, reducing the risk for accidents. They will travel at 12 miles per hour in lanes separate from other traffic, and, to minimize aesthetic offense and flood-damage risk, overhead catenaries will not be used.
Although sources tell AN that the city has a copy of the plan, City Hall spokesperson Wiley Norvell denied any relationship between de Blasio’s streetcar proposal and the plan commissioned by FBQX. (Although it’s not unusual for the city to consider the recommendations put forth by outside groups: In 2014, the city adopted many of the Vision Zero recommendations created by Transportation Alternatives.)
Norvell stated that the city’s plan calls for a $2.5 billion, 16-mile corridor that will be financed outside of the auspices of the (state-funded and perpetually cash-strapped) Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) using a value-capture model. The streetcar line’s success, essentially, is predicated on its ability to raise surrounding property values. The increased tax revenues, he explained, could be plowed back into a local development corporation, which would then use the funds to capitalize the project. Critics wonder why the streetcar is being privileged over other initiatives, such as the Triboro RX proposal, a Utica Avenue subway extension, and the not-completely-funded Second Avenue subway, that would serve more straphangers. Though a fare-sharing system could be brokered with the MTA to enhance multimodal connectivity, critics point out that the streetcar line’s proposed stops are up to a half mile from subway stations, bypassing vital connections between the J/M/Z and L. The Hills on Governors Island Are Alive and Ahead of Schedule With a growing population and growing need for more parks, the city is looking to develop underutilized green space within its borders. The Hills, a landscape on Governors Island designed by West 8 and Mathews Nielsen, is set to finish nearly one year ahead of schedule. The news coincided with the mayor’s announcement that the island, a former military base and U.S. Coast Guard station, will now be open to the public year-round. The city has invested $307 million in capital improvements to ready 150 acres of the island for its full public debut. Forty-eight new acres of parkland (including the Hills) will open this year. The Innovation Cluster, a 33-acre business incubator and educational facility that builds on the example of Cornell University’s campus extension on Roosevelt Island, will bring several million new square feet of educational, commercial, cultural, research, and retail space to the island’s south side. The Trust for Governors Island, a nonprofit dedicated to stewarding and capitalizing on the island’s assets, will release an RFP to develop the vacant land and historic district by the end of this year, and construction could begin as early as 2019.
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Pedal Power: London could soon have more cyclists than motorists on its streets
Since the turn of the century, the number of motorists in London more than halved from 137,000 to 64,000. In the same period, cyclist numbers trebled from 12,000 to 36,000, showing that more commuters are increasingly choosing two wheels over four to get to work. Britain now boasts over two million weekly cyclists—an all-time high, according to British Cycling, a governing body in the UK. Sales of U.K. manufactured bikes subsequently grew 69 percent in 2014 and the effect of this is most evidently seen in the capital. "You can probably trace it back to the bombing attacks in London in 2005," points out Simon Mottram, founder of cycling clothing firm Rapha, in a BBC report. "The day after, the tube lines were all still closed, and suddenly there were lots of people on bikes to get to work.” "Not to forget the government's Cycle To Work scheme [introduced back in 1999 and which allows people to buy a bike tax-free]. And the underlying increased focus on health and fitness” he added. Transport for London has described the shift in transport method as "a feat unprecedented in any major city.” However, change is not happening fast enough for some as London lags behind other European capitals. Such is the case with Madrid, which placed restrictions on vehicle types entering the city center. Oslo is banning all cars entering by 2019 along with large parts of the River Seine being pedestrianised in Paris. Dublin, too, will have pedestrianized areas by 2017. Cyclist safety is also hot on the agenda. In 2012, 14 cyclists died on London’s roads and a staggering 671 were severely injured. A year later, six more died in the space of three days. That period in late 2013 marked a turning point for changing attitudes towards cyclist safety in the capital. Campaigners prior to then had been calling for separate bike lanes for years, though only now are their efforts coming to fruition. Cycle “superhighways” have been introduced by Mayor Boris Johnson during his tenure, though many argue that while these are a step forward, they still fail to provide a physical barrier between cyclists and drivers. Changes, though, are still being made. Already, lower traffic lights for cyclists are being trialled across the city and new solutions are still yet to be implemented. These include a two-stage right turn system and early release for cyclists ahead of cars at traffic lights. Both can be seen in the video below. http://touchcast.files.bbci.co.uk/performances/6172b9e8049da6f6fa73b30a0ccd4f0c/A540765C-1265-4B0A-9F55-D947ACD20E0E.m4v “I think it is a lot safer for new cyclists, it will give them more confidence to cycle round London” said one commuter speaking to the BBC. According to city authorities, most superhighways should be completed by the summer. A map of all current superhighways can be seen below.
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Enrique Peñalosa plans to give Bogotá the best transit system in the developing world
An economist who once advised Colombian President Virgilio Barco, Enrique Peñalosa is now a revered urban planner in the city of Bogotá. Having once served as Bogotá mayor from 1997 to 2001, Peñalosa is now back for his second stint and pledges to provide his city with the best public transportation system in the developing world. In his first term as mayor, Peñalosa was responsible for widespread changes in infrastructure and public space in Bogotá. These included a 40 percent reduction in vehicle usage within the city; replacing parking spaces with green sidewalks and street furniture; developing the TransMilenio bus rapid transit systems; building a major public library alongside two others in low-income areas; and creating expansive green spaces. Peñalosa also pioneered regulation on social housing that included a minimum square footage on new builds. Dario Hidalgo of CityFix sings the new mayors praises, citing how the bus rapid transit system (BRT) is "one of the world’s most heavily used", with over 2 million passengers a day using the service. Like any good economist, Peñalosa is a strong supporter of efficiency and growth. Now, with his self-laid foundations,Bogotá can begin to move forward again. Not dwelling on the past, he has plans to upgrade the BRT system, merging it with the rail network as well implementing more bus lanes. On top of this, Peñalosa plans on doubling bicycle usage in Bogotá. Naturally, when a such changes are proposed, the issue of financing these changes surfaces. An estimated $13-20 billion is required with the state being left to cough up $7.1 billion after accounting for all government revenue streams. The solution? Peñalosa is seeking to implement fees for personal automobile travel into the city, similar to the congestion charge in London (which has generated $1.42 billion since 2003). Despite these possible methods of financing, it is very possible that the new Mayor will turn to the private sector to secure further funding in order to secure the implementation of the new services.
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Philadelphia set to appoint the first-ever Complete Streets Commissioner
Philadelphia officially recognizes cyclists as a constituency deserving special protection. This week, Mayor Jim Kenney announced the creation of a "Complete Streets Commissioner," a new position in city government to oversee the creation of more bike-friendly infrastructure. But the story gets complicated from there. Historically, Kenney is not the most ardent supporter of "complete streets," a term coined by the National Complete Streets Coalition to describe roads harmoniously designed for cyclists, pedestrians, public transportation users, and cars. In 2009, as a City Council member, Kenney introduced legislation to up fines for headphone-wearing bike riders. His co-legislators are not too enthused about bikes, either: The same City Council gave itself veto power over proposed bike lanes in 2012. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia lead the creation of the commissioner position. According to Philadelphia Magazine, the Bicycle Coalition organized a mayoral forum for Democratic candidates, where each would-be mayor claimed to support "Vision Zero" objectives. The group issued a platform last year during election season, outlining reforms needed to make safer streets. Sarah Clark Stuart, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition, maintains that "creating a commissioner who is thinking about and looking at all transportation modes, and how to make them safer and work better for everyone, that is new. And what that signals is that there is a dedicated, high-ranking official who is assigned the responsibilities to marshall citywide resources and set policy toward the goal of making Philadelphia's streets safer for everyone." Why isn't Philadelphia's Office of Transportation & Utilities assuming these responsibilities? In a shift towards a "strong-managing-director form of government," Kenney is simultaneously creating the Complete Streets Commissioner position while closing the Office of Transportation & Utilities. Clarena Tolson, the Deputy Managing Director of Transportation & Infrastructure, will continue to oversee street maintenance, water, some of the complete streets program, as well as synchronize operations of the Philadelphia Energy Authority and SEPTA. There's no word yet on the application process. Urbanists, keep your ears peeled.
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Royal Flushing
The Flushing waterfront is targeted for development.
Courtesy NYCDCP

Don’t be fooled by the name: Main Street in downtown Flushing is decidedly nongeneric. One of the busiest commercial strips in New York, Main Street’s shops and restaurants cater to the 69 percent of Flushing residents who identify as Asian, particularly the neighborhood’s sizable Chinese and Korean populations. As in East Harlem, East New York, and Long Island City, the Department of City Planning (DCP) is studying rezoning possibilities for Flushing West. The DCP would like to activate underutilized industrial space along the waterfront, giving the downtown room to grow westward.

 
Flushing’s new zoning proposals aim to spur mixed-use growth.
 

The Flushing West Neighborhood Planning Study (FWNPS) is building on a master plan initiated in 2011 by the Flushing-Willets Point-Corona Local Development Corporation. With a $1.5 million Brownfield Opportunity Grant, the LDC tapped SHoP, AKRF, and Mathews Nielsen to study zoning and land use between Flushing Creek and downtown Flushing. The master plan outlined strategies to spur economic development, add affordable housing, improve city services and infrastructure, and broaden access to the waterfront.

The FWNPS is now in its environmental review and public scoping phase. The plan’s rezoning proposal targets a 32-acre, ten-square-block area east of Flushing Creek, bounded by Northern Boulevard, Prince Street, and Roosevelt Avenue.

Since May, the DCP has invited residents to articulate Flushing’s core needs in a series of public meetings. Residents identified primary concerns, like building more housing for seniors, preventing displacement of small businesses, improving streetscapes for pedestrian safety, creating separate bike lanes, building more recreation space, and cleaning up the heavily polluted Flushing Creek.

Thomas Smith, director of studies for the DCP’s Queens office, explained that existing zoning in downtown Flushing “already allows for a significant amount of development potential.” The zoning encourages hotels (because of a low parking requirement), and buildings with wide, low bases topped by residential units.

New zoning would encourage similar mixed residential-commercial development, and adhere to current land use near Northern Boulevard: heavy manufacturing on the waterfront and light manufacturing inland. Those fearing a Williamsburg- or Greenpoint-style tower building boom need not worry. Airport zoning for LaGuardia, across Flushing Bay, sets restrictions on the height of buildings in adjacent neighborhoods.

Though plans from 1998 set out to beautify the waterfront, today the public access area is narrow and uninviting. Downtown streets leading to the water are long and drab, doing little to entice the eye and move pedestrians creekside. The proposed zoning changes would allow for a 40-foot-wide access area, a new street network, and restaurants and shops along the waterfront. At a November DCP public hearing, councilman Peter Koo praised the DCP’s plan, but encouraged the agency to clean up Flushing Creek, claiming that “no one wants to go there because it stinks!”

Besides poor water quality, the affordability of affordable housing is a top community concern. Smith explained that the rezoning would allow for affordable housing rates at 25/60 or 30/80. Translation: In some new construction, 25 percent of units will be available to households making up to 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), or, 30 percent of units will be available to those making 80 percent of the AMI. In 2015, the AMI for a three-person household in New York City is $77,700 for a family of three. If approved, the plan could add 938 total units of housing. Of those units, 516 to 619 units would be permanently affordable.

Jung Rae Jang, an organizing fellow at the Flushing-based MinKwon Center, noted that the AMI affordable housing guidelines are a poor fit for the neighborhood, which has an AMI of approximately $39,000. To Jang, “the city’s 25/60 plan simply does not address the [average] income level of the Flushing downtown area, and for people who are making less than that.”

A coalition of community organizations has formed the Flushing Rezoning Community Alliance to speak out on the zoning changes that could negatively impact current residents. The DCP hopes that, after a public comment period, the neighborhood plan will be approved by fall 2016.

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Meet The Green Line: How Perkins Eastman would remake Broadway through Manhattan into a 40-block linear park
By now, the "Bilbao Effect" is metonymy for a culture-led revitalization of a postindustrial city driven by a single institution housed in a starchitect-designed complex. The wild success of Manhattan's High Line generates regional seismic effects—the Lowline, the QueensWay, and the Lowline: Bronx Edition all cite the high queen of linear parks as their inspiration. Upping the ante, Perkins Eastman unfurls the Green Line, a plan to convert one of New York's busiest streets into a park. The Green Line would overtake Broadway for 40 blocks, from Columbus Circle to Union Square, connecting Columbus Circle, Times Square, Herald Square, Madison Square, and Union Square with pedestrian and cyclists' paths. Except for emergency vehicles, automobiles would be banned from the Green Line. The proposal has precedent in Bloomberg-era "rightsizing" of Broadway. Traffic calming measures closed Times Square to cars, increased the number of pedestrian-only spaces, and installed bike lanes along Broadway, reducing vehicular traffic overall. In conversation with Dezeen, Perkins Eastman principal Jonathan Cohn noted that "green public space is at a premium in the city, and proximity to it is perhaps the best single indicator of value in real estate. [The] Green Line proposes a new green recreational space that is totally integrated with the form of the city." Value, moreover, isn't linked exclusively to price per square foot. Replacing two miles of asphalt with bioswales and permeable paving could help regulate stormwater flow for the city's overburdened stormwater management infrastructure. Right now, rain falling to the west of Broadway discharges, untreated, into the Hudson, while east of Broadway, stormwater gushes straight into the Hudson. What do you think: is the Green Line on Broadway feasible, or totally fantastical?    
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Designer envisions a Miami Beach that embraces the rising sea
This year's Art Basel/Design Miami was a wash. The tallest stilettos could not save feet from floodwaters that inundated streets and forced partygoers under small tents. Even when it's not raining, water bubbles up through stormwater grates and sewers, a result of the city's porous limestone bedrock. Miami Beach is a barrier island that is routinely battered by hurricanes and floods. With global warming, the bad floods will only get worse. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, NASA, and NOAA predict sea level rise between eight inches and six feet by 2100. For these reasons, Harvard GSD's newly established Design Office for Urbanization selected Miami Beach as its first focus site. Though unaffiliated with Harvard, a recent Florida architecture grad would make a great contribution to the program. Designer Isaac Stein, at West 8's New York office, envisions a solution for incorporating rising seas into Miami Beach's urban design, Vanity Fair reports. While completing an undergraduate degree in architecture at the University of Miami, Stein drafted a plan for a mangrove forest, raised buildings, canals, and other design interventions that will bend to, not fight, the rising seas. The plan focuses on South Beach proper, from 5th to 15th Streets. One of Miami Beach's main thoroughfares, Alton Road, would be raised on stilts to accomodate floodwater. Trams would replace cars, and bike lanes would be installed along Washington Avenue, roughly parallel to and a few blocks inland from the Atlantic. Historically, Miami Beach's western (bay) side was lined with mangroves. Stein's plan restores the mangrove forest to provide a natural buffer against rising water. Canals would be cut in the medians Michigan, Jefferson, and Lenox Avenues. The resulting fill could be used to raise buildings and roads 1.5 feet above grade, would safeguard the city against six feet of sea level rise.
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Petersen Automotive Museum
Michael Bodell

Wilshire Boulevard is impressive for both its length as well as its remarkable collection of notable architecture, much of it pedigreed within L.A.’s historical time line beginning in 1895. Wilshire was also made for the automobile. Over the decades it has evolved into a mélange of typologies and styles, to be viewed by most Angelenos through the rearview mirror of their car rather than by the lone flaneur pounding the pavement. To attract attention in the parade of largely unremarkable architecture that makes up the majority of building stock along the boulevard, only the brash and bold will do.

The newly redesigned Petersen Automotive Museum by architects Kohn Petersen Fox stimulates the senses. Brash and bold it most certainly is, with an undulating steel facade wrapped in slick red and silver ribbons of LED-lined steel panels. The ribbons project from the eclipsed shell of Welton Becket’s Seibu Department Store supported on tubular struts. Produced in Kansas City and brought to L.A. by semi-truck, each ribbon was computationally designed to fit together in the field, thereby reducing on-site coordination. Expertly engineered, flawlessly fabricated, and installed on time and on budget by Matt Construction and Zahner Inc., this energetic renovation of the original Petersen is KPF’s romance with the visual image of aerodynamics of a racecar in a wind tunnel. But this flirtation reads as an excuse to produce visual exuberance, and what we’re left with is an articulated billboard, nostalgically hawking the cosmetics of a familiar, and more primitive digital age.

Courtesy Petersen Automotive Museum
 

However, no one can debate that the Petersen now visually owns the corner of Fairfax and Wilshire. A monster truck previously blasted out of the old museum’s facade in an attempt to communicate the contemporary program within. A sleek wrapper has replaced those marketing gimmicks, but programmatic ambiguity remains the architectural imperative of the new Petersen. Becket’s big box is still formally present, but now clad in KPF’s red and silver skin, it’s got “bling” in surplus. Behind the stainless-steel ribbons is a utilitarian rain screen of red corrugated steel, completing a textbook example of Venturi’s decorated shed, but one that offers no clever cues toward its program, nor its larger cultural purpose.

Herein lies the true problem for the Petersen Automotive Museum: The building’s dominating opacity doesn’t work for a block of Wilshire soon to be subway adjacent, and it is assumed, will host more pedestrians as a result. The few sections of glazing at the ground floor are certainly welcome, but the contemporary flaneur needs continuous storefronts stocked with spectacle in order to turn their gaze away from their smart phone. Becket’s original design was certainly no more transparent, but can be excused given its time and program—a postwar department store whose patrons entered from the rear through the parking garage. The contemporary museum visitor may often arrive on foot.

Courtesy Petersen Automotive Museum
 

To their credit, the design team at KPF did challenge the client’s brief, which ruled out a curtain wall for both its cost and environmental impact on the collection. They developed the entry as a concourse, or sectional promenade through the building that includes visual connections to the ground floor galleries and restaurant from the interior of the building. This nod to the changing urbanism along Wilshire allows the public to filter into the lobby from both the sidewalk and the parking garage at the rear, either to visit the museum, grab a meal at the restaurant inside the Petersen lobby, or journey onward to LACMA nearby.

The Petersen board championed opaque galleries as an obvious way to mitigate environmental and acoustic issues facing the design. Local architects House Robertson gave the windowless, showroom-like galleries a cosmetic update, but the interiors could have used a more aggressive spatial upgrade in order to push for a stronger urban interface. It is not unusual for another firm to handle the interior of a project this large, but House Robertson ought to have taken more cues from KPF’s facade. Save for a large, open spiral stair—spatially promising at first glance, it reads upon closer inspection as an uninspired cousin to the escalators that once traversed the original department store.

Courtesy Petersen Automotive Museum; Michael Bodell
 

Contemporary architectural discourse has already moved passed the computationally driven exercise of simply wrapping buildings as a means of expression. The really hot projects in the academy right now embrace a kind of complex geometry that migrates from exterior to interior in ambiguous ways, challenging how a building interconnects with both its external context and its users. There’s an opportunity for that moment in the concourse, and where the ribbons wrap to form a shallow brise-soleil on the roof deck, but without a material link from interior to exterior, the projected facade never gains spatial muscle, despite being cantilevered several feet off the primary volume of the museum.

“It makes better sense, of course, to acquire an existing disused building and impose your commercial personality on it with symbolic garnishes,” remarked Reyner Banham on the topic of iconic roadside architecture in Los Angeles: The Architecture of the Four Ecologies. But Banham was referring to a burger stand, not a museum. The Petersen board has a track record of searching for an iconic personality for their building by adding such “garnishes” to Welton Becket’s original structure, and the newest offering does little to improve the museum’s connection to the city beyond. While the Petersen’s founding mission may revel in the grand days of car culture, L.A.’s moved on to bike lanes and rapid buses, and is anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Purple Line Subway extension. Looking east down Wilshire Boulevard, one imagines subway riders emerging from below and skipping the Petersen Automotive Museum entirely beyond perhaps the quick selfie; it’s architecture and collection the vestige an urban idea that Los Angeles just doesn’t need anymore.

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Oslo plans to make its city center free from cars in four years
Norway currently boasts three World Rally Championship drivers (second only to France), all of considerable pedigree, yet its capital city of Oslo is planning to remove cars for good. Along with the proposal to ban cars is the plan to build 37 miles worth of bike lanes by 2019 and a new system for handicap bus services and delivery vehicles. In a bid to reduce pollution, Reuters reported, politicians in Oslo said they want to be the first European capital to implement a comprehensive permanent ban on cars. With a population just under 650,000, Oslo has around 350,000 cars with most owners living outside the center but inside the city's boundaries. Emulating Paris' one day-a-year car ban, Oslo is bucking a trend many fellow European cities are following. Currently Brussels is trialling an eight month traffic circulation program involving the pedestrianization of its boulevards meanwhile the old cities of both Split and Dubrovnik in Croatia are completely car free. Shop owners in Oslo, though, fear the plans will hurt business, though it is worthwhile noting that the city is not banning all vehicles, so delivery trucks and the like will be allowed. Lan Marie Nguyen Berg, lead negotiator for the Green Party in Oslo has said "We want to make it better for pedestrians, cyclists. It will be better for shops and everyone." The plan also outlines the need for significant investment in infrastructure, most notably in public transportation that will have to support the growing number of users. Trials will be run after authorities investigate precedents in other european cities where plans have so far been a success. Aside from a marked reduction in pollution, the change will also make the city a much more appealing place for pedestrians and cyclists, something which the authorities are not alone in trying. According to Gemini, researchers from Scandinavian group SINTEF claim that much needs to be done about Norway's noise problem which is responsible for 150 deaths a year.
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This tangle of highways in Providence, Rhode Island, could give way to a green boulevard
According to Moving Together Providence has the potential to be a "world model for urban design." That is of course, if the city decides to go ahead with their ambitious proposal of tearing up the 6/10 connector which joins Routes 6 and 10 between Olneyville and the interchange with Interstate 95, replacing it with a bicycle- and bus-friendly green boulevard. Currently, the connector makes use of eleven bridges, nine of which are over 50 years old and are in need of repair. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation estimates that such restoration would cost upwards of $400 million. Moving Together argues that instead of using those funds to fix infrastructure that will inevitably have be repaired again, the money should be used to transform the connector into a green boulevard with special bus and protected bike lanes. That's something, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo has said she would like to see take place. Today, the connector heavily prioritizes private and commercial vehicle access into, out of, and through the city center. This has been the case for so long now, that the system has since become deeply embedded into Providence's urban fabric. However, these outdated priorities may have to make way for the contemporary demand of more efficient transportation connections that address communal, environmental, and economic needs—the triple bottom line. Naturally, there is a popular concern that removing such a widely used highway will only increase traffic. Nevertheless, urban planner Alex Krogh-Grabbe dispels these fears, saying that traffic is only increased as capacity is added, a concept known as "included demand" whereby people only use a service (in this case the highway) due to its presence. In taking away a travel option, routes into the city are actually diversified, with drivers taking many different journeys via local streets. An example of this can be seen in New York City. In 1973, the West Side Highway was removed due to a partial collapse. At the time, some 80,000 vehicles used the highway daily. Officials were baffled when traffic in the surrounding neighborhoods didn't increase with the elevated highway's closure. Now that highway is a wide boulevard running alongside the Hudson River Greenway with a much used bike route. Another dramatic transformation can be seen with the Cheonggyecheon Highway in South Korea. Here the removal of the much used highway saw a 600percent increase in biodiversity, a 35 percent drop in particulate pollution, and up to a 50 percent increase in land values within the vicinity. Aside from the obvious health benefits, protected bike lanes bring economic reward, too. In New York City, local businesses on the 9th Avenue protected bike lane witnessed a 49 percent increase in retail sales (compared to the borough average of 3 percent). In terms of safety, studies have shown that such lanes can contribute to a 90 percent reduction in injuries per mile and as for reducing emissions, choosing to cycle to work can reduce household emissions by 6 percent—a viable options for half of the United States who live within 5 miles of their workplace. Buses, too, can aid in this area. Dedicated lanes separate buses from general traffic allowing them a faster journey into the city unclogged with traffic, allowing them to carry many more people. All in all, the scheme offers a progressive and viable alternative to the highway that now slices through the city. Whether Providence's residents will take to the idea though, remains to be seen.