Posts tagged with "Birmingham":

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Spatial Affairs Bureau runs wild over disciplinary boundaries

Spatial Affairs Bureau can get a lot done. Started in 2010, the multifaceted landscape, architecture, and design practice led by Peter Culley boasts a wide array of diverse and engaging projects in the United States and England, with offices in London, Los Angeles, and Richmond, Virginia. With a background in landscape-focused cultural projects—Culley earned his stripes at London-based landscape architecture practice Gustafson Porter + Bowman in the late 1990s—Spatial Affairs pursues an intellectually nimble practice by pushing project constraints toward broad ends that encompass everything from “interior landscapes” to urban-scaled configurations. As the number of commissions in hand has multiplied over the years, the practice has become well-versed in combining the advice of expert consultants with its own penchant for programmatic and spatial innovation. It does so in an effort to create layered material and historic conditions that always push back toward the landscape in some form or another. The approach has resulted in a string of under-the-radar but dramatically good-looking commissions that aim to create something greater—and more cohesive—than the typical, rigidly defined arenas of normative practice might allow. Aside from the work profiled here, Spatial Affairs Bureau has a number of other significant projects on the way, including several sustainable houses in Los Angeles, a master plan and remodel of the headquarters for advertising agency TBWA\Chiat\Day, and a new pedestrian path and bicycle redevelopment scheme for the Richmond, Virginia, waterfront. Birmingham Markets Park As the city of Birmingham, England, looks to capitalize on a historic opportunity to create a new major civic space and park, Spatial Affairs is working to enrich a community-led proposal by laying out new residential, commercial, and public spaces in synergy with greenery and public health goals. To highlight the potential of the site, Spatial Affairs has developed an alternative approach that appropriates the leftover footprint of a redundant public market as the heart of the new parks complex. The project aims not only to meet the city's stated commercial and residential development goals, but also to use urban design in an effort to focus the benefits of rising land values surrounding the site toward community needs. Metropolitan Museum of Art Spatial Affairs Bureau has worked on several projects with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, both as a part of an interdisciplinary team that provided new outdoor seating areas for the museum’s Fifth Avenue location, and for several other projects as an independent contractor, including at the Met Breuer building. As part of its work with the Met, for example, the firm developed a pair of black metal panel–wrapped security buildings to flank the museum. Here, Culley deploys gently tapering forms designed to “respond to the classical architecture and soften the impact of larger elements as they meet the ground.” The approach was mirrored in a series of sleek bronze ticketing kiosks Culley created to help relieve crowding at both museum locations. Crosstown Arts The Contemporary Art Center in Memphis, Tennessee, is an arts and culture complex strategically carved out from within the hulking mass of a landmarked—but currently underutilized—1.5 million-square-foot former Sears warehouse and distribution center. The venue includes galleries, shared art making facilities, offices, artist-in-residence studios, and a bar. These amenities encompass portions of the first two floors of the warehouse, including a 10-story light well located at the center of the complex. With a distinctive, curving red staircase and excavated flared concrete columns populating the main “hypostyle” lobby, the complex represents an attempt to breathe new social life into a long-forgotten relic. Bouverie Mews Culley is also pushing the envelope in terms of housing, especially with the firm’s proposal for a planned 5,400-square-foot arts and residential compound in North London. There, the architect is working on a ground-up duplex anchored by studio space and a sculpture court. The Passive House complex is located atop a former brownfield site and is sandwiched between existing multifamily homes, warehouses, and the Grade II Listed Abney Park Cemetery Wall. Due to the landlocked project site, designs for the complex include multi-tiered gardens, precisely calibrated frameless skylights, and an interior layout that emphasizes borrowed daylight and views between different project areas.
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The next generation of bike share programs is taking shape in Birmingham, Alabama

A biking first for the Western Hemisphere is about to hit the streets in Birmingham, Alabama. While the American south is better known for its legacy of car-first sprawl, Birmingham city leaders hope a new bike share program will get residents and visitors to pedal their way on two wheels for short trips in the city's core—and they're getting an "assist" from a new prototype in Canada. Traditional bike share programs include tougher-than-usual bikes able to handle the abuse of the general public. According to a report in, Birmingham's bikes will feature built-in electric-assist technology that uses small motors to help the weary pedaler make it up steep terrain. But Birmingham officials have been touting the city's flat topography among the selling points for the system, so the "assist" could end up replacing the footwork outright. The electric-assist bikes "were included to lessen barriers to using the system for people not as experienced with hillier areas of the city," the website reported. Whether or not the new system is used for its health benefits or simply falls back on its ability to reduce congestion, improve air quality, and provide a transportation alternative to city residents, Birmingham plans to launch 400 bikes and 40 kiosks across the city's core this fall—a good size system for a city of 212,000 people and a region of 1.14 million. The plan calls for 100 of those bikes to be electric assist. Birmingham chose Quebec, Canada–based Bewegen Technologies on Monday to supply the bikes and kiosks after a number of companies submitted proposals in January. The city's economic development agency, REV Birmingham, will administer the program. Funds come, in part, from a $2 million federal CMAQ grant aimed at mitigating congestion and improving air quality. The city is chipping in another $400,000. Operating costs are expected to come from member payments and corporate sponsorships. Bewegen—named after the Dutch and German word for "to move"—launched their prototype electric bike at a conference in Pittsburgh last September and plans pilot projects in Quebec and Portugal later this year. The company's CEO, Alain Ayotte, was one of the founders of Montreal's Bixi bike share, and served as President and CEO of Public Bike System Company (PBSC) which has supplied major systems in New York City, Chicago, and Washington, DC. PBSC went through a drawn out bankruptcy in 2014, about a year after Ayotte left the company. In an interview with the Bike Share Blog, Ayotte discussed his vision for the future of electrified bike share:
Conventional bike-sharing was a good start, but has many limitations. The modal share numbers speak for themselves. They limit the impact that bike-sharing can have on the urban transportation mix of a city. This also limits the pool of riders and the types of use they can get out every trip. I believe that shared pedelec (electric-assist) vehicles are truly the missing link in urban mobility and will soon become the norm.
The system's pricing structure is still being worked out, but it will include annual memberships and credit card options for short term rentals. The city is crowdsourcing the kiosk locations and plans to launch a website and smartphone app later this summer. Decals will be placed at proposed kiosk locations and citizens can text their thoughts about each one to system organizers. While this system is novel for its use of electric-powered bikes, bike share is not new in the south. Cities like Atlanta, Nashville, Louisville, and Chattanooga have launched, or are planning, systems of their own. The nation's first bike share program began in Washington, D.C., in 2010 and dozens more programs have popped up in cities large and small across the country.