Posts tagged with "urban design":

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vision42design Competition Asks Designers to Re-Imagine 42nd Street Without Cars

The Institute for Rational Urban Mobility is hosting the just-announced vision42design Competition calling on architects, designers, and transportation gurus to re-imagine one of the most iconic (and congested) streets in New York City—42nd Street. Submit your plans today to transform the street into a world-class boulevard complete with a high-quality public spaces and a light-rail tram. In addition to the $10,000 winner's prize, the jury’s top selected projects will be featured in The Architect’s Newspaper. For more info and to register visit the competition website. Registration Deadline: Sept 8, 2014 (Midnight) EST
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Baltimore's Hopscotch Crosswalk Colossus

Crossing the street in Baltimore just got a lot more fun. The city has just unveiled its newest dispatch: a "hopscotch crosswalk" transforming the downtown street crossing at the corner of Eutaw and Lombard streets into an entertaining diversion for pedestrians. The project was a component of the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts for the Bromo Seltzer Arts & Entertainment District’s desire in incorporate public art in various areas of the city. The piece is comprised of four  crosswalks, each featuring a different footprint symbolizing the city’s many inhabitants. A shoe-print represents the business person, bird tracks mirror the flock of birds in the city sky, the boot portrays the labor force, and the footprint depicts the numerous artists bouncing around the city. Baltimore is one of many cities within the United States which has toyed with crosswalks by altering their main function as gateway between intersecting streets into a tangible piece of entertainment. Other cities such as Milwaukee and Miami have altered their crosswalks to create inventive pathways, transforming them into black-and-white oversized piano keys, or multi-colored lines. This artistic approach has been questioned for its safety, as playing a game of hopscotch in the middle of a busy intersection might not be the most responsible way to interact with traffic. The Baltimore Office of Promotion has assured skeptics, however, that they have worked collaboratively with the Department of Transportation who has approved the design for the project. Both agencies have said that the crosswalk is secure but that its users should remain mindful of the adjacent automobile traffic, stop lights, and other crosswalk signals.
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"Urban Fold" Paper City Creator Set Puts Twist on Traditional Building Blocks

In a hybrid of LEGO and origami, Paper Punk has created their first boxed set of punch-and-fold, customizable paper building blocks. Urban Fold is the California-based company’s newest creation by founder Grace Hawthorne, a designer, author, and artist from San Francisco who currently teaches at Stanford University’s d.school (Institute of Design). The set gives builders the opportunity to create a paper city in punchy colors and patterns, inspired by Berlin graffiti and the photography of Matthias Heiderich. Urban Fold contains 48 buildable shapes and 697 stickers, an urban planning map, and an idea guide to creating the shapes of the world’s most popular cities. Each paper building block comes in a bright shade and/or a geometric pattern and the stickers can transform triangles into spires, quarter circles into windows, or squares into moveable pedestrians. For Hawthorne, the boldness of the set was key, “I wanted to create an urban-minded build/play experience that was also eye-candy, just impossible to resist because it’s bursting with colors, patterns, cool graphics,” she said in an interview for Mediabistro. These multi-colored blocks can be arranged and stacked with complete creative freedom and, like traditional wood building blocks, can be built up and knocked down for infinite construction and reconstruction. If a builder prefers a minimalist look, the shapes can also be folded inside out to be all white. “I refer it to an open box set because there are so many pieces to it," Hawthorne commented, “What anyone can create with it is only bounded by their imagination.” After 16 months of testing, Paper Punk's imagination brought forth the innovative project, but only with funding can it come to reality. In the same way that her company was launched last year, Hawthorne has taken to a Kickstarter campaign. With a $33 backing pledge, builders of all ages can own a Urban Fold architecture toy set. The funding period ends on December 2nd and the company promises a shipping date in time for the holidays.
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New Public Space Initiative Aims to Revive Austin's Forgotten Alleyways

Austin, Texas–based architects Dan Cheetham and Michelle Tarsney have given a new face to some of the city's underutilized spaces: alleyways. Their one-of-a-kind community art installation, 20ft WIDE, seeks to resolve conflict between architecture, art, and humanism in order to create places of lasting value. The once forgotten alley between Ninth and Tenth streets, which connects Congress Avenue and Brazos Street in Downtown Austin, has been transformed into a collaborative space to bring attention to public urban places and foster discussion about the new possibilities for their uses The name 20ft WIDE stems from Austin’s original 1839 master plan, which called for each of the city’s alley to measure, well, 20 feet wide. Austin’s structure consists of many open spaces and side streets that are not being used solely because they go unnoticed by nearby wanderers. Cheetham and his associates argue that these alleys are, in fact, vital components of the city that are being menaced by super-block development that will ultimately alter the grain and scale of the urban fabric. The initial stimulus of the installation was to bring awareness about the role of these spaces and to generate communal discussions about possibilities for their use. Cheetham explained that "most alleys are overlooked as something that is just a necessity—they serve a utilitarian function, such as trash collection for instance." For him, alleys are a valuable urban asset. They create a gap in mid-blocks, meaning that buildings do not go over them: "they break up the grain which allows for more sunlight and air to penetrate the city street. This is a reason why they feel so nice." In an interview, Cheetham told AN that 20ft WIDE was part of a larger collaborative project. When asked why the installation had been set up in that specific alley, he explained that the group had initially identified six or seven different urban alleys, and that in order to settle for just one "the trick was to find an alley that had an intersection of several things. It should be located in an area that is not in conflict with people or security measures. Moreover, we were looking for an alley that had some kind of historical significance or interest." He noted, "we were on a very limited budget and were given a quick time frame. Therefore, we needed an alley that had enough quality esthetic to stand on its own with minimal interruptions." The project was initiated last April, when the team began installing twines of bright colors and different shades all across the alley. They also worked with an Austin-based art education organization, Creative Action. The group created “Peace Cranes”, a project which involved young individuals who folded over 1,000 pieces of origami a week prior at the city’s arts festival. The cranes were integrated in the 20ft WIDE installation as a symbol of peaceful community building. The alley is also filled with stacked pallets, burlap sacks in which people have generously given away clothing, polystyrene shipping foam as well as donated plant materials. The jovial and creative nature of the installation is meant to give rise to thought provoking conversations about the role that unused spaces and tucked-back streets play within the city center. Dan Cheetham attended The University of Texas, and later founded Fyoog, a firm inspired by his passion and love for music, the arts, and all things pertaining to architecture, urbanism, and their sub-disciplines. Fyoog’s underlying principles are to combine architectural design and functionality into abandoned or under-utilized urban space, in order to give them a new purpose. Cheetham is deeply concerned with the public realm, and seeks to engage individuals within their city’s creative process. The group hopes the project can be made permanent in the future.
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Cities as Lab: Designing the Innovation Economy

At the end of September, the AIA released “Cities as Lab”, a report stipulating how innovative design can help strengthen modern urban America. Presented during the National Leadership Speaker Series in Washington D.C., it stressed how resilient cities are better suited to address upcoming social, economic, and physical challenges. The report is part of a larger framework looking to guide the international development agenda for decades to come. As a whole, it seeks to fuel the progress of critical sustainable programs around the world. The AIA report states that by incorporating innovative design and technology within their internal structure, cities would have the power to lead the way toward the future. Urban enclaves are being reconfigured in order to respond to changing realities and contemporary human and economic needs. Some of the key examples stated in the report include the Boston Innovation District, North Carolina's Research Triangle Plan, and the Downtown Project in Las Vegas. These programs focus on a series of urban experiments seeking to promote knowledge exchange and economic opportunities, to develop new technological hubs, to mitigate the ecological footprint through sustainable design, and to introduce new architectural archetypes in order to foster creative place-making. All of these ideas are critical linchpins for visionary and sustainable planning. In its concluding remarks, the report indicates that intelligent design and wise policy choices help create places that are suited to meet the needs of future populations, to respond to economic challenges, and to manage natural disasters. The general idea is to create more resilient communities and sustainable infrastructures that will be able to sustain future economic and physical challenges. The initiative focuses on ways to create more valuable, healthy, secure and sustainable built environments by exploring solutions to pressing issues that urban enclaves are faced with.
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Re-Imagining the Urban Experience at Boston's Downtown Crossing

Condos and retail developments aren’t the only changes coming to Boston’s Downtown Crossing. Cambridge-based landscape architecture firm Klopfer Martin Design Group (KMDG) has been selected by the Boston Redevelopment Authority to design the streetscape plan for Boston’s Downtown Crossing Business Improvement District (BID). In response to an RFP to design the Streetscape Design Standards & Wayfaring Program, BRA received 11 proposals and decided to move forward with KMDG’s program. The long-term plan will consist of recommendations for sidewalk and roadway materials, a pedestrian zone, and vending and wayfinding programs. In its proposal, KMDG outlined its main objectives to “recast the crossing as a public, open space” and “connect the connections.”  According to the BRA, construction is slated to be completed in late May.
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AIANY Honors 2012 Design Award Winners: Urban Design

[Editor's Note: This the final in a four-part series documenting the winners of the AIANY's 2012 Design Awards, which are broken down into four categories: architecture, interiorsunbuilt work, and urban design. This list covers urban design awards.] The AIANY has released its annual list of Design Awards noting projects that demonstrate exemplary originality and quality. Urban Design Honor and Merit Award winners were selected by a jury consisting of Bernardo Fort-Brescia of Arquitectonica, Michael Lehrer of Lehrer Architects, and Donlyn Lyndon of the University of California Berkeley. Two urban design projects were distinguished with the top Honor Award including the Santa Fe Railyard Park and Plaza by Frederic Schwartz Architects with Ken Smith Landscape Architect and the Master Plan for the Central Delaware by Cooper, Robertson & Partners and Kieran Timberlake with OLIN. Winning work in all four categories will be on display ay the Center for Architecture at 536 LaGuardia Place beginning April 19 through May 31.

Urban Design Honor Award Winners:

  Santa Fe Railyard Park and Plaza, Frederic SCHWARTZ Architects with Ken Smith Landscape Architect Santa Fe, NM Master Plan for the Central Delaware, Cooper, Robertson & Partners and Kieran Timberlake with OLIN Partnership Philadelphia, PA

Urban Design Merit Award Winners:

Water Proving Grounds: Rising Currents, LTL Architects New York, NY Holding Pattern, Interboro Partners Queens, NY Click on a thumbnail to launch the slideshow. All photos courtesy respective firms unless noted otherwise.
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Pedestrians First at Grand Army Plaza

Brooklyn's grandest public space at the top of Prospect Park has always been a work in progress. Grand Army Plaza, an oval-shaped public space composed of monuments ringed by an inner and an outer roadway, was built as the main entrance to the park in 1866, serving as a buffer between nature and city and happened to be the confluence of some of Brooklyn's busiest avenues. Over the years, a monumental archway was added, fountains came and went, and eventually the roads were widened until the lush plaza was effectively cut off from the surrounding Prospect Heights and Park Slope neighborhoods. Last week, however, after months of construction to tame the out-of-control roadways, a group of civic leaders and officials gathered in what was once a busy street to celebrate the newly reclaimed plaza. NYC DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan praised the transformation of the intersection into a real multi-modal space.  She said the changes to Grand Army Plaza are "an incredible invitation into the plaza to appreciate a landmark in a new way." The transformation is not just a boon for pedestrians and cyclists, she continued, but for motorists as well, noting that automobile behaviors have been streamlined and simplified through the oval by new medians and pedestrian islands to reduce merging conflicts. Similar to interventions across the city that shave off unused or excess pavement from roadways to be reallocated to pedestrians, the NYC Department of Transportation has created 71,000 square feet—or about 1.5 acres—of new pedestrian space at Grand Army Plaza. New landscaped pedestrian islands at the plaza's north side (above) help to route traffic more efficiently while shortening the distance pedestrians must cross to get to the park. At the south side (below), a vast swath of asphalt between the Soldier's and Sailor's Arch and the rest of the plaza has been paved with a light-colored gravel and lined with white granite boulders to officially keep traffic out. A similar treatment was put in place at the gates of Prospect Park where weekend Greenmarkets traditionally take place. New pedestrian islands, a large new crosswalk leading directly into the park, and a dedicated bike lane folllowing the Plaza Street loop complete the picture. Grand Army Plaza has been notoriously dangerous. In the late 1920s the plaza featured a large billboard called the "Death-o-Meter" (below) displaying the traffic injuries and fatalities in Brooklyn to promote safer driving in the area. Grassroots efforts to transform Grand Army Plaza into a pedestrian-friendly environment began in 2006 with the formation of the Grand Army Plaza Coalition (GAPCo) comprised of concerned citizens and organizations including the Project for Public Spaces. The coalition gathered widespread community input on how to improve the space producing a design by architect Jan Gehl in 2006 and eventually working with DOT to make their plans reality. In 2008, a design competition with the Design Trust for Public Space garnered inspiring proposals on how to rethink the urban tangle, with most results calling for a radical overhaul of the traffic circle. Plans were finalized during the contentious battle over the nearby Prospect Park West bike lane, but Sadik-Khan told AN the controversy did not affect the designs at Grand Army Plaza. Still, one component—a two-directional protected bike lane along Plaza Street, which creates the outer oval, that was approved in 2010 by community boards 6 and 8—was withheld from plans presented the spring. StreetsBlog pointed out at the time that the lane wasn't fully eliminated, but delayed after some residents were concerned about traffic. "I'm happy with the way the project evolved," said Sadik-Khan. "Adding 1.5 acres of new public space at the crossroads of Brooklyn is an incredible asset." "Over the past 50 years, the plaza has tipped to more street. We tipped it back to pedestrians," said Robert Witherwax, coordinator of GAPCo. "In terms of getting pedestrians into the plaza, it's genius, simple, elegant, and it works." The changes represent NYCDOT's budget approach to creating new public space quickly. A coat of gravel and paint is much more affordable than a completely new streetscape and can be fulfilled much faster. Witherwax said the next step is to program the new space, which could include new events and outfitting the plaza with furniture. "We have a treasury of ideas," he said. "We're making a part of the park useful that wasn't before."
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Video> Bourges' Unbreakable Cobblestone

A sidewalk in France adds a bounce to your step. Atelier Raum Architects recently released their streetscape intervention La Ville Molle in Bourges, France, part of the city’s 5th annual Biennale of Contemporary Art. During their 2010 artist residency at the École Nationale Supérieure d’Art de Bourges (ENSA), the architecture firm developed the urban design project in conjunction with La Box, the ENSA student gallery, and the FRAC Centre (Fonds Regional d'Art Contemporain). Situated in a medieval town square, the raised patch of cobblestone vacillates under spectators' shifting weight. The installation is intended to alter the pedestrians’ urban experience and sense of gravity while the buoyant surface juxtaposes the apparent strength of a cobblestone plaza with the instability of walking on a balloon. Thus, the design demands contemplation on whether the traditional French city should embrace contemporary design as its modernization. (Via noquedanblogs.)
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Taming Governors Island

Even with last week's heat wave making it feel like July in the city, it will still be seven weeks before that oasis in New York Harbor, Governor's Island, opens for the season on June 5. But there's still plenty of reason to celebrate like summer's here, as the city reached its anticipated deal with the state for control of the 172-acre island yesterday. The city will now be responsible for the development and operation of all but 22 acres of the former Coast Guard base purchased for $1 from the federal government in 2003, whose National Parks Service remains responsible for a small historic district on the northern section of the island. This paved the way for the rather quiet unveiling today of the 87-acre final master plan designed by West 8, Rogers Marvel, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Mathews Nielsen, and Urban Design+, which had been under lock in key since last spring, when the proposal was completed but held up by all the fighting over the island's, uh, governance. The thrust of the problem was largely a disagreement about how to best spend dwindling state funds, which led to upstate ambivalence toward the flashy park project—Governors Island almost didn't even open in 2009 after Governor Paterson initially withheld about a third of the $18 million annual operating budget. At the time, the design team had put in more than a year of work, with an expected unveiling in May that never came. In a wide-ranging piece in The New Yorker last August, Nick Paumgarten revealed that the designs had actually been under lock and key since then on the island, and now they've finally been unveiled online at a new-ish site. New-ish because they're are posts dating from May 8, 2009, confirming the presumed unveiling, along with another from April 8, 2010, suggesting that yesterday's announcement may have been worked out in advance, though we had also heard it was a rather abrupt agreement, hence the press conference scheduled for 6 o'clock on a Sunday night. As for the plan itself, in the past it was expected to cost upwards of $100 million to execute, though it will no doubt be higher in the end, plus another $30 million annually to operate, though that money would come from an outside source, quite possibly NYU dorms or biotech labs, though an agreement with the feds stipulates no residential development or casinos. All this for a 40-acres of park land plus the 90-acre historic island to the north, all encompassed in a 2.2-mile promenade. We'll have more to say about the designs in a day or two, but until then you can kick around the aforementioned website, which is almost as impressive as the place itself.
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And Then There Were Five

The competition to improve the grounds and urban connectivity at the St. Louis Arch site has attracted attention from some major talents in architecture, landscape, and engineering. The list of competitors has been trimmed to five: the Michael Van Valkenburgh-led team, the Weiss/Manfredi team, SOM Chicago/Hargreaves/BIG, the Behnisch-led team, and PWP/Foster + Partners/Civitas. The winner will be announced in late September.
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Highway to Isolation

Multidisciplinary teams are working to rethink the grounds surrounding the Eero Saarinen-designed Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, better known as the St. Louis Arch, to improve its connectivity with the city and the riverfront. An editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is calling on the teams to substantially rework I-70, which creates a barrier along the park's western edge. When the interstate highway system was being designed, many routes were planned along waterfronts that were then falling out of use for industry and shipping. As waterfronts have come back in fashion as urban amenities, many communities are struggling to work around or remove these highways. The Post-Dispatch advocates removing the 1.5 mile stretch all together. Definitely something for the teams to ponder.