Posts tagged with "Ecological Urbanism":

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Chicago to get a mile-long park and wildlife habitat

A vestige of Chicago’s industrial history is slated for redevelopment as an ecologically focused public space. According to the Chicago Department of Planning and Development, a mile-long stretch of the North Branch Canal will be redeveloped to serve both Chicagoans and wildlife, focusing on the east side of the canal between Division Street and North Avenue, with the plan to be completed by the end of 2018. Financed by Chicago’s Open Space Impact Fees, the Wild Mile of the North Branch Canal would set the groundwork for habitat improvements for fish, turtles, and invertebrates, and create vegetative islands, viewing platforms, and canoe launches, as well as other environmental enhancements. The Wild Mile is a component of the proposed improvement of 760 acres along the Chicago River between Kinzie Street and Fullerton Avenue as a part of the North Branch Framework Plan. The North Branch Framework Plan is integral to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Industrial Corridor Modernization Initiative, a multi-year effort to review and refine land use policies in the cities Industrial Corridor System. The plan for the North Branch Canal would include best practices for implementation and details on cooperation with private property owners and developers. Dug to form a shortcut to avoid the bend in the North Branch of the Chicago River, the North Branch Canal was originally completed in 1857 by Chicago’s first mayor, William B. Ogden. The completion of the North Branch Canal created the area known as Goose Island, where industrial development flourished at the turn of the 20th century and is now gaining popularity as a new tech hub in Chicago. “This initiative will improve the North Branch Canal as a truly unique waterfront for the entire city, where visitors will be able to engage and appreciate the city’s ecosystem through unprecedented public access,” said Mayor Emanuel in a statement. The proposal for the Wild Mile comes as Chicago aldermen push for increased public access to the entirety of the North Branch of the Chicago River. Private plans to redevelop the riverfront have recently emerged, such as Sterling Bay’s Lincoln Yards project, which includes the former A. Finkl & Sons steel plant and will deliver residential and office buildings, in addition to a connection to the 606, a 2.7-mile-long linear greenway on the site of a former rail line.
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Recreational marijuana company buys entire California town

American Green, Inc., a publicly-traded, technology-focused medical cannabis company, recently purchased the entire town of Nipton, California for $5 million with the intention of modernizing the locale into a cannabis-friendly and sustainable recreational destination. The historic mining town has a current population of about 20 inhabitants and is located roughly an hour south of Las Vegas, Nevada in the far northeastern corner of California’s San Bernardino County. The town, a short distance from Interstate-15, is also roughly three hours east of Los Angeles and on a major route connecting regional centers like San Diego and Salt Lake City, Utah. The company hopes that with increasing legalization, the booming recreational cannabis trade will be an economic boon to the region. Under American Green’s stewardship, the 120-acre town will become a hub for recreational cannabis use and cannabis normalization at the municipal level. American Green plans to use the town as a testing site for cannabis-friendly regulation and has plans for opening a slew of bed and breakfasts, hotels, and production facilities for edible cannabis products with the intent of creating a complete “small town experience,” according to a press release. An artist-in-residence program is even in the works, as are plans for extensive eco-tourism initiatives. The company will also pay to expand a nearby solar farm with the intent of making Nipton energy independent while also upgrading the town’s water aquifer and water delivery systems. David Gwyther, chairman and president of American Green, said in a statement, "We are excited to lead the charge for a true 'Green Rush.' The cannabis revolution that's going on here in the US, has the power to completely revitalize communities in the same way gold did during the 19th century.” The company is currently in the planning stages of the project and is soliciting input and public comment via its website.
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Computational Ecologies: Inside the 2015 ACADIA Conference in Cincinnati

The 35th annual conference of the Association for Computer-Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA) took place in Cincinnati (at Peter Eisenman's infamous DAAP Building) in late October. The international conference is a three-day long academic event presenting peer-reviewed research and experimental work of 50 computational designers, students, and architects. Topics range from material science, biomimesis, geomimesis, robotics, environmental parametrics, and ecological urbanism. The conference was bookended by a series of three-day workshops at the beginning of the week, and a one-day post-conference hackathon, organized by Site Coordinator Brian Ringley (Woods Bagot/Pratt Institute). The workshops provided a range of projects catering to both students, industry leaders, and design professionals. Topics covered ranged from CNC machining to Interaction Design (IxD) to BIM analysis and optimization. Tools featured in the workshops included Processing (Java), Dynamo (Autodesk), and Rhino/Grasshopper. The conference presentations and discussions were distributed between downtown Cincinnati (Deborah Berke's 21c Museum and Zaha Hadid’s Contemporary Arts Center) and the University of Cincinnati two miles north of downtown, where a large portfolio of signature contemporary architecture has been built largely within the past decade. Keynote lectures by Stefan Behnisch, amid.cero9, Francois Roche, and Nader Tehrani were spread throughout the daily sessions. A curated exhibition of installations debuted during the conference, expanding on the ‘computational ecologies’ theme. The exhibition, titled ECO-DIVERSITY: Computation and Identity, will be open to the public through December 6, 2015. “This year’s event was smaller than last year’s Los Angeles-based conference, however the quality of papers and discussions remains at a high level,” according to ACADIA President Jason Kelly Johnson. Ringley saw the conference as a “unique way to showcase innovation embedded within the historical richness of a post-industrial Midwestern context.” Local flavor from this year’s conference included an evening coordinated by Matt Anthony’s Cincinnati Made initiative at a 25,000-square-foot renovated 1850s brewery in the heart of Over-the-Rhine’s brewery district—a neighborhood which contains the country’s largest historic district. Outside the brewery, Giacomo Ciminello showcased his People’s Liberty–funded "Spaced Invaders" projection-mapped video game, an ongoing art project calling attention to underutilized urban spaces in the city. A full list of organizers, sponsors, and participants can be found on the conference website. Papers will soon be added to an open access platform CUMINCAD, a digital library of 8,300 PDF full papers. Next year’s conference will remain in the Midwest: It is coming to Ann Arbor’s Taubman College at the University of Michigan. The theme will be Posthuman Frontiers: Data, Designers and Cognitive Machines. -- Organizers for "ACADIA 2015 COMPUTATIONAL ECOLOGIES: Design in the Anthropocene" include:
  • Lonn Combs, Technical Chair
  • Chris Perry, Technical Chair
  • William Williams, Site Chair
  • Mara Marcu, Exhibitions, Website, Social Media
  • Brian Ringley, Workshops and Social Media
  • Stephen Slaughter, Site Related Events and Publications
  • Ming Tang, Website, Site Related Events and Publications
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Koolhaas Flames Out, Shantytowns Inform

The announcement that Rem Koolhaas would be the keynote speaker for the “Ecological Urbanism” conference at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD), which took place over three days last weekend, raised eyebrows, especially among sustainability-minded architects, landscape architects, and planners. Koolhaas had never shown any particular interest in the subject, and the fire at his TVCC Tower in Beijing was interpreted by many as a symbol of an era that had come to an end, ushering in more sustainable and responsible practices. Those of us who admire and respect his projects, but also believe that our profession needs to go green to adapt to the 21st century, were hoping his speech would redeem his formerly blasé attitude toward sustainability and provide some clarification of why this seemingly odd choice for a keynote was made. No such luck. Despite the disappointing keynote speech, charged with needless attacks against talented colleagues, including Renzo Piano and Norman Foster, and no definitive resolution as to what Ecological Urbanism is or should be, the conference added provocative ideas to the discourse on sustainable architecture and planning. Along with the usual urban farms, solar panels, wind farms, and bioswales, there were innovative proposals that advocated for changes in technological and programmatic aspects of the profession, from Mitchell Joachim’s radical houses made of meat and compact electric transportation systems presented by MIT’s William Mitchell to proposals for highrise cemeteries and prisons in the middle of Manhattan by Spanish architect Inaki Abalos. Probably one of the most enlightening talks, stripped from the glamour of sci-fi technologies or sexy images, was the breakout session on informal cities in Latin America led by Christian Werthmann, Associate Professor and Program Director at the Department of Landscape Architecture at the GSD. He conducts what he calls “dirty work,” a research initiative on upgrading informal cities. Despite the region’s slowing growth rate, lessons can be learned from the formation of favelas, barrios, or shantytowns. “The world has entered the urban millennium. Half the world's people now live in cities and towns. That in itself marks a historic transition,” said then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, according to a 2005 UN-Habitat report. “But what will happen over the next 30 years is just as significant. According to United Nations projections, virtually all of the world's population growth will occur in the urban areas of low- and middle-income countries. How we manage that growth will go a long way toward influencing the world's future peace and prosperity.” Werthmann told AN: “There are two fields of operation regarding informal settlements. One is to retrofit existing informal cities, and the other is how do you control or guide the future of informal cities.” In Latin America, there are examples like Brazil, where the government provides informal cities with communal infrastructure: water, electricity, health, sewage, and roads. But there are no comprehensive strategies. Other approaches involve community endeavors and grassroots movements. But how can cities prepare for this to create healthier communities? “That is a harder task. Nobody wants to give away their own land so people can build on it,” he said. Favelas and slums have received a lot of attention in movies like City of God and Slumdog Millionaire, in which they are depicted as unsanitary and dangerous places. But there is more to them than violence and disease. Interestingly enough slums have many of the qualities that make thriving cities frequently promoted by urban planners: They are pedestrian-friendly, high-density, mixed-use, and made of recycled materials, usually debris from adjacent formal cities. “American and European cities could learn from these informal settlements as an example for low-rise, high-density development. They have an intensive street life, the public space is not much but well used, as opposed to the suburban model, which is completely inefficient,” Werthmann said. “There is a need for an in-between model, that is not the highrise of Manhattan or Sao Paulo.” The overall sentiment of the conference was that urban living is the most sustainable way to live, so it was interesting that the counterpart of retrofitting shantytowns—fixing suburbia—didn’t come up. It would have been nice to see more ideas like that and less of distant, zero-carbon cities for a privileged few, like Foster’s Masdar project in Abu Dhabi.