Posts tagged with "urban density":

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Booming Seattle dominates nationwide crane count

The latest “crane index” report from construction industry tracking firm Rider Levett Bucknall (RLB) reveals the ongoing construction boom across the American West, as the region's major cities see broad increases in the number of cranes on the ground. RLB’s biannual skyline count has tallied nearly 400 fixed cranes in operation across the U.S. and the Canadian cities of Toronto and Calgary. Toronto topped out the list, overall, with 72 cranes in operation. Seattle fell one spot to second overall, with Los Angeles, and Denver, Colorado—tallying 58, 36, and 35 cranes, respectively— rounding out the top three American cities on the list. Chicago; Portland, Oregon; Calgary; and San Francisco follow closely behind with the list with 34, 32, 29, and 22 cranes each. Seattle’s count has held steady from the last report in October 2016, when the city first captured top ranking. The cities of Calgary, Denver, Los Angeles, and Portland, according to the report, saw increases while crane counts over the period since, with counts for Boston, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco, and Toronto remaining the same. In Seattle, the city’s emerging Denny Triangle neighborhood and regional growth associated with recent upzoning measures aimed at alleviating the regional housing crisis there helped to keep the city’s crane count high. Wolfstreet recently reported that an estimated 67,507 apartment units are in various stages of development in the city. In Los Angeles, meanwhile, a city-led push to add 8,000 hotel rooms to areas surrounding the Los Angeles Convention Center is responsible for many of the gains there, as several projects like the Gensler-designed Metropolis, Fig + Pico, and 1020 Figueroa developments climb out of the ground. High rise developments going up in surrounding downtown areas, as well as the ongoing construction of the new Los Angeles Rams National Football League team stadium by HKS Architects, account for some of the other gains. Overall, the RLB report cites strong growth in residential construction as an overall driver for the general increase in cranes across the region. RLB’s next report is due January 2018.
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Museum of Vancouver exhibition deftly critiques the city’s red-hot real estate market

There is something surreal in the new exhibition at the Museum of Vancouver (MOV), Your Future Home: Creating the New Vancouver, on view until May 15. It’s not just the museum’s late ’60s architecture by Gerard Hamilton. It’s not the giant crab in a fountain that ushers patrons into a dome-like edifice with a cavernous interior reminiscent of some sci-fi film about “the future.” (George Pal’s The Time Machine springs to mind.)

It’s also not the slightly trippy Brian Eno music, or even the Through the Looking Glass–style mirror (Can You Afford to Be Here by Dialog) that exhales phrases in different languages about what it’s like to live in the city with the highest cost of housing in North America. This mirror returns the civic gaze—and responsibility—to the viewer.

Rather, it’s the whole meta-theater of it: the museum is actually a kind of real estate sales center where patrons are prospective buyers.

“Vancouver is a city in flux, undergoing massive growth and redevelopment,” said Gregory Dreicer, MOV’s director of curatorial and engagement, who worked alongside exhibition designers McFarlane Biggar Architects. “With as many as three homes demolished each day—often to make room for denser living—we are experiencing a watershed moment in the history of the region.”

While talking about the price of real estate has become something of a civic obsession, Dreicer said the aim of the exhibition is “to shift the conversation from real estate to the state of the city.”

Your Future Home opens with a huge wall of photographs of various housing types in the city—from a homeless tent to a mansion to an old railway house—all underlined in red to mimic the current trend in real estate marketing literature. (In Vancouver’s overheated market, homeowners regularly receive such notices of recent sales in their mailboxes.)

The intent here is to focus on the residential typology itself, rather than to fetishize price per square footage, and the wall of homes is an intriguing mosaic of Vancouver housing styles.

Next, patrons are ushered into a mock sales center with a collage of various parts of the city. Faux sales sheets offer statistics about the city itself—as if it were a single property. An adjacent wall, plastered with a huge image of the typical Vancouver city view, is punctuated by various other statistics like “50% of Vancouverites use private cars, 5% bicycles.” Across from this view, four flat screen monitors offer maps and statistics compiled by planner Andy Yan, illustrating the exhibition’s central themes: housing affordability, residential density, ease of transportation, and quality of public space.

An animated video of Vancouver draws one into city streetscapes. Across from it another aerial view photograph of the city proves revealing: Vancouver’s downtown is a tiny peninsula of density, surrounded by a sea of suburban style housing.

With text noting a projected population increase of 150,000 residents by the year 2040, the question, Where will they all live? hovers (metaphorically) above the idyllic view.

The third section attempts to answer that question while raising many others. While uneven at times, and slightly overwhelming, this part of the exhibition has a curiously Victorian feel about it, with many of the several dozen mini-exhibits mounted on blocks, reading like dioramas reimagined for the 21st century.

One by Erick Villagomez called The Grid is a simple wooden cube with a grid imposed on it, and a kind of viewmaster-cum-pinhole-camera that looks down into a montage of fantastical civic images that aim to encourage a “new social and spatial order.”

The grid is applied to a Vancouver beach, and a dense cluster of high-rises applied to a wealthy waterfront enclave. Nature is overlaid with built environment and new urban models are superimposed on suburban landscapes, offering inventive takes on new ways to inhabit the city.

Another highlight is architect Gregory Henriquez’s Vertical City that plays with the idea of a dramatic shift in scale and Vancouver’s obsession with “the view.” Here, a model for a 2,500-foot-tall highrise is created by upending a 15-block area of the city complete with existing buildings. A large roof top terrace features a “sky garden” and a dizzying view.

Framed by a loop of photos of important civic events and city builders on one end and a film about public space and transportation on the other, neighborhood histories—how Chinatown residents rallied to save their community from a freeway—mingle with imagined futures like a post-global warming transportation network for bicycles.

Architect Oliver Lang offers a dense pyramidal model as an alternative to both low-rise sprawl and highrise living. And architect Javier Campos presents Density in Section as a kind of cri de coeur for greater diversity of built environment in the city, one that mixes residential, commercial, and industrial. Fittingly for a rail against homogeneity and conformity, the model consists of a series of tiny multi-leveled flags bearing images of buildings that form a triangular peak, and read like banners of protest.

Your Future Home is as much a call to arms to save the soul of a place in danger of becoming a resort town for the wealthy, as it is a celebration of the city. The exhibition manages to foil Vancouver’s real estate–fueled fortress mentality of isolation and unaffordability even as it critiques it, simply by engaging patrons and offering both historical insight and potent possibilities.

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In San Francisco, new research suggests that density, not solar panels, is the surest path to a green city

Brad Plumer at Vox anaylzes the data to show that if, for example, the city of San Francisco built housing to accommodate 10,000 current Bay Area residents (i.e. those living in more wasteful, suburban environments), the city could save 79,000 metric tons of CO2 per year, three times the amount of CO2 that the solar panel legislation could save.
If this was applied to the U.S., Plumer reasons, the effect could be tremendous, although decreasing housing costs, along with increasing supply, would be the only way to ensure that green (or green-er) city living is available to a broad range of individuals.
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Shanghai Talks> Carol Willis of The Skyscraper Museum on balancing dense development with open spaces

Last year I served as special media correspondent for the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat‘s September symposium in Shanghai. The topic was “Future Cities: Towards Sustainable Vertical Urbanism,” and among the many architects, engineers and other tall thinkers I interviewed was Carol Willis of The Skyscraper Museum. We discussed if there's an optimum height for tall buildings, and balancing dense development with open spaces. “You can have places that are characterized as high-rise cities,” she said, “that have opposing models of the way that land is used. The densification of space, the densification of energy…is complemented by the open space, public space, advantages of nature spaces that benefit us all.” Willis also wondered whether the current Asian boom in very tall buildings has an historical precedent. “The Chinese cities you see today that are growing their skyscrapers as an image of ambition and identity is very similar to the forces of capitalism that produced the Woolworth Building or the Insurance Company Building,” she said. “What I think is most fundamentally different between the Chinese cities and the American cities at the turn of the century is who controls the land.” You can read more on CTBUH's website and share the video from YouTube.