Posts tagged with "urban planning":

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Alejandro Zaera-Polo: Urban planners must rethink how they approach cities

The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) has partnered with urbanNext—a multidisciplinary platform for design promoted by Actar Publishers—to share articles on common topics every two weeks. This week, we’re pairing the urbanNext article below with AN’sHow Can Cities Double down on the Climate Change Fight?” The article below was authored by Alejandro Zaera-Polo, an architect and co-founder of London/ Zurich/Princeton based Alejandro Zaera-Polo and Maider Llaguno Architecture (AZPML).
Since the eighteenth century when the Western world became human-centered, humankind has not ceased to evolve, and so too has the very concept of the human. In 1933, Le Corbusier and a few other members of the CIAM issued The Athens Charter, a document aimed at orchestrating the emerging technologies of the built environment into a proposal for the future of cities.[1] A classification of human activities became the vertebral spine of this proposal, structured around four urban functions: work, residence, leisure, and transport. This functional classification has structured urban planning policies ever since, but its human-centered approach appears now to be unable to address the problems of our age.
In the Anthropocene, humans have become capable of modifying natural ecosystems, geological structures, and even the climate; we have become so powerful that it is increasingly difficult to delimit the natural from the artificial. As the most populated human environment, cities are a central focus of these transformations, and yet, none of these concerns seems to have permeated the tools that we use to plan cities. The urban planning disciplines remain primarily conceived around human functions, despite the fact that the crucial questions they need to address—air pollution, rising water levels, drought, the heat island effect, deforestation, biodiversity, food security, automated work, inequality…— are primarily driven by concerns that, for the first time in history, transcend human societies and threaten the very survival of the planet. The economic, political, and technological drivers of modern urbanism—the mass integration of production, employment, and consumption; the separation of work, dwelling, recreation, and transportation; the division between the natural and the artificial—are no longer effective at addressing the urgent questions cities are facing today. Likewise, the traditional urban instruments such as plazas, streets, and neighborhoods have been commodified by neo-liberal practices and have become ineffective at addressing the new urban collectives and constituencies, both human and nonhuman, which populate contemporary cities.
Posthuman Cosmologies The agency that cities have in the construction of the Anthropocene is something that can no longer be ignored. We are assisting in a veritable paradigm change, one that requires a reformulation of the cosmologies upon which the contemporary tools of urbanism have been constructed. Arcane technologies and rituals of the urban were often based on mythological references. Ancient cosmologies were mechanisms of comprehending the natural world which enabled cultures to understand and operate within the natural environment. The oldest ones predated human settlements and were aimed at explicating natural phenomena and regulating the modes of relation between humans and nature. As the urban environment became increasingly controlled by human agency, cosmologies were discarded as systems of urban knowledge and governance. Typology and monumentality became primary tools for urbanism, with the structure of human relations prevailing over the physical and material determinations of the environment. The affairs of cities (politika) became an entirely artificial endeavor. The current prevalence of artificial environments and politics—cities—has tended to naturalize technology while de-politicizing nature. However, the pressing nature of ecological concerns and the scale of technological developments call for the imminent city to re-politicize both nature and technology and construct new urban cosmologies which can support the development of new urban sensibilities. An entirely new set of urban technologies have since appeared, radically transforming urban protocols and experiences: smartphones, GPS, electromobility, and biotechnology. Yet, these technologies still remain largely outside the practices of urban planners and designers, which remain trapped in the humanistic precepts of modern urbanism.Far from producing urbanity, urban functionalism has dismantled the commons and undermined urban democracy. Clichés, such as the relevance of public spaces as guarantors of urban communities and urban democracy, are as problematic as the inability of architects and urban planners to quantify the implications of density and urban form in the energy consumption or the determination of urban micro-climates. The idea that architects and urban designers can find effective agency in the distribution of human functions—such as work and domesticity—is at best naïve. Cities have become sources of extreme inequality and environmental degradation (in contempt not only of the demos, but also of all of the nonhuman constituencies that exist in cities), and these are even threatening the subsistence of cities and are pointing at insurmountable contradictions at the core of the current modes of economic integration. Theorists like Jeremy Rifkin and Paul Mason argue that we are already entering a post-capitalist world in which politics are shifting from a focus on capital and labor to a focus on energy and resources, and they have proposed new economies: shared economies of zero marginal costs driven by new technologies: peer-to-peer organizations enhanced by pervasive computation, sustainable energy sources, and carbon-neutral technologies.[2]
As the largest human habitat, cities have become the epicenters of global warming, air pollution, and a variety of ecological malaises. Naomi Klein has pointed at the fundamental opposition between capitalist growth and the limited natural resources of the earth, and questioned the capacity of capitalist regimes to resolve an imminent ecological catastrophe.[3] The decline of capitalism has loaded urban ecologies and technologies with unprecedented political relevance. Cities have now become a crucial intersection between ecology, technology, and politics where the equation between wealth, labor, resources, and energy has to be reset to address the shortcomings of neo-liberal economies.
Ecologies and Technologies Rather than Functions Does this scenario, determined by the rise of the Anthropocene and the crisis of neo-liberal capitalism, imply that the work of urbanists and architects has become futile? That the new commons will be entirely developed within social media? Has urbanism been expelled from politics, and is it now at the mercy of securitization and capital redistribution? On the contrary, some economists[4]argue that urban planning, housing, and real estate hold the key to resolving urban inequality.[5] Cities precede the installation of political systems, and have systematically outlasted them, often constituting themselves in mechanisms of resistance to power. For cities to become devices for the common good rather than instruments producing and implementing power structures (and often inequality or ecological destruction), urban practices need to locate resources and technologies at their core. Rather than splitting urban life into functions easily captured by power, we should try to identify first where the imminent urban commons are and how to reconstruct them as instruments of devolution and ecological awareness, constructed transversally across technologies and resources. We have tried to outline what those might be, and how they may become the source of a revision of urban practices.
This article originally appeared as Imminent Urban Commons on urbanNext. [1] Le Corbusier, Jean Giraudoux, and Jeanne de Villeneuve, La Charte d'Athenes (Paris: Plon, 1943). [2] Jeremy Rifkin, The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism (London: Macmillan, 2014. Paul Mason, Post Capitalism: A Guide to Our Future (London: Allen Lane, 2015); and Paul Mason, “The End of Capitalism Has Begun,” The Guardian, 17 July 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jul/17/postcapitalism-end-of-capitalism-begun. [3] Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014). [4] Matthew Rognlie, “Deciphering the Fall and Rise in the Net Capital Share,” BPEA Conference draft, March 19–20, 2015; http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/projects/bpea/spring-2015/2015a_rognlie.pdf, accessed 5 October 2016. [5] Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press, 2014).
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NYC could create a whole new neighborhood over a Queens rail yard

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s feasibility study for a possible Sunnyside Yard “overbuild” project is complete and suggests that the project could cost anywhere from $16 to $19 billion, according to the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). “In Western Queens, there remains one of New York City’s last great opportunities to solve many of these challenges in one place,” said Alicia Glen, deputy mayor for housing and economic development, calling the development a “new and innovative solution” to meet New York City’s growing housing and transportation needs. The 180-acre rail yard, which sits in the center of Western Queens, is a major transportation center owned by Amtrak and Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) that services the New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Rail Road. Some entities are already proposing updates to the site—Amtrack, in particular, is planning a new High-Speed Rail facility that will open by 2030. The feasibility study took many of these developments into account, focusing on the engineering, economic, and urban design implications of the project, and after almost two years of study, the report concludes that the project is feasible, albeit costly. In the study, the NYCEDC establishes three case study plans with different program focuses. The first proposes almost entirely residential development, adding up to 24,000 units of housing. Of those residences, 30% would be allocated for affordable housing, part of de Blasio’s affordable housing goals outlined for New York City. The proposal would also add up to 19 schools and almost 50 acres of open space. The second study, dubbed the “live/work/play” proposal, was designed to offer a well-rounded program with residential, cultural centers, and office space. This proposal is the only proposal to include office space and would still incorporate up to 19,000 units of mixed-income housing and up to 14 schools. The third and final study is the “destination” proposal, which focuses on residential and cultural spaces. The proposal features almost 1.5 million square feet of mixed-use space and up to 22,000 units of housing, still allowing for retail spaces and up to 14 schools. Each of the three proposals focuses on developing the 80 to 85 percent of the site the NYCEDC has deemed viable and connecting it to the surrounding neighborhoods using existing bridges and roads and adding significant green space to the area. During their study, the NYCEDC selected a 70-acre portion of the site, called the “Core Yard,” as an optimal place to begin the development, with a price tag of approximately $10 billion. The area features enough space to create a complete neighborhood and is well-located to incorporate the Amtrak master plan. In the second phase of the master plan, the NYCEDC plans to look in greater detail at how to avoid significant impact on transportation infrastructure. They also hope to create a detailed urban plan and consider sustainable initiatives and architectural standards for future buildings. Before that phase, however, de Blasio and the NYCEDC will collect feedback from the community and work with Amtrak, who plans to begin construction on a High-Speedeed Rail facility at Sunnyside Yard in early 2018, according to QNS. You can read the full report about the feasibility of Sunnyside Yards here.
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Suburb versus city? This new book argues they have more in common than you’d think

Judith K. De Jong’s book New SubUrbanisms presents an American urban landscape that is at once all too familiar and yet full of exceptions and alternatives to the typical narrative. In her well-researched guide, she presents an argument for a new understanding of the relationship between urban and suburban space in the United States.

While touching on cities and suburbs across the country, the book uses Chicago, Houston, and their surrounding suburbs as case studies for what De Jong describes as a “flattening” of urban and suburban space. This flattening is characterized in its simplest terms as the urbanizing of suburban space, and the suburbanizing of the urban space. De Jong outlines three dichotomies of the flattening process—literal and conceptual, cultural and demographic, formal and spatial. Each of these are explored through four architectural typologies, found both in the urban and suburban context—car space, domestic space, public space, and retail space. As a whole, De Jong labels many recent trends in all of these typologies as being sub/urban, or possessing the qualities of both the urban and suburban.

Each of these typologies is given its own chapter. Fronted with vital histories, the chapters challenge the popular ideas of these specific typologies. In each case the socio-economic and cultural forces and implications of benchmark projects are tied to their roles in the development of suburban or urban spaces. De Jong continually reiterates, with evidence, the complex relationship between these seemingly opposing conditions, rather than setting them against each other. Often, surprising histories are revealed, questioning typical narratives. Examples of distinctly urban spaces in suburban settings and suburban ideals expressed in urban developments, build a more nuanced understanding of the gradient and overlap of the two.

Rather than just a historical account, the book is a call to action for designers to think and design more critically. While any historical text has an inherent bias, De Jong presents the histories in a matter of fact way, while offering thoughtful opinions in the second half of each chapter. In the assessment of innovative sub/urban projects, a general optimism arises throughout the writing. Yet the book is still sharply critical of many projects which fail to strive for the formal or spatial ambitions of those groundbreaking projects.

In the car-space chapter, the suburbs as the main domain of the automobile is rebutted with evidence of the car’s long role in urban planning, design, and architecture. The chapter primarily focuses on the space dedicated to parking, and the different forms that have developed out of the need to store mass numbers of cars. The example of Bertrand Goldberg’s Marina City is invoked more than once throughout the book. Its 900 parking spaces allow for the housing portion of the project to be lifted well above the din of the city streets, a technique that provides for a suburban sensibility of space and amenity, as well as an urban form. This arrangement has since become the prototype for many towers across the country, particularly in Chicago.

Along with Goldberg, the work of Victor Gruen is highlighted as proto-sub/urban in its ambitions to bring urban-like spaces and programs to the exploding post-war suburban landscape. Gruen, who is credited with formulating the contemporary suburban mall, envisioned a space which would function like an urban square or piazza, while serving contemporary American consumers. Once malls became what we generally know them as today, Gruen disowned the typology, upset with the lack of community focus. The retail space chapter brings the discussion of the mall up to today. Tracing the decline of the 1980s-style mall, and the rise of the lifestyle center, De Jong again criticizes current trends in retail architecture while outlining possible futures.

By the end of the book De Jong highlights some of the most recent critical investigations of the suburbs, and presents work that she and a team formulated as a rough guide to designing New SubUrbanisms. The schematic designs bring together many of the points made throughout the book, while proposing a more formally exuberant language for the typology. And though this final chapter brings the book together ideologically, it is De Jong’s writing that holds the book together. Without the clarity of writing, the thoroughly researched thesis could have easily fallen flat. Instead, the readers find themselves—either agreeing or disagreeing—quickly understanding a topic that seems to have escaped the general academic and professional discourse. New SubUrbanisms should give anyone interested in urbanism, city planning, or urban design something new to think about.

New SubUrbanisms Judith K. De Jong, Routledge, $51.95

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In quest for street success, Detroit invites architects and planners to tear down zoning red tape

The City of Detroit has opened its zoning rules to public critique in a quest to remove barriers to developing vibrant commercial districts. This week, the city launched Pink Zoning Detroit, a call to action for architects, landscape architects, policy analysts, planners, and preservationists to test the city's zoning and land use codes for red tape–laden areas that hinder development in commercial zones. The reforms are aimed at stakeholders like small business owners, for example, who find it taxing to navigate cumbersome city bureaucracy for approvals and correct permits. Over the course of six months, three interdisciplinary groups will generate ideas for mixed-use commercial corridors around the city. Those ideas will be tested against Detroit's zoning laws to find obstacles and help city agencies make reforms that facilitate better commercial space. The teams' research, design, and analysis will culminate in a series of recommendations next spring, and pilot "pinks zones" to test the modified regulations could be pinpointed by summer 2017. The project is funded by a $75,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Detroit Free Press reports. Along with the just-launched initiative to creatively re-use vacant lots, Pink Zoning Detroit hopes to be a model for other cities looking to reform staid land use rules that can impede development. “For us, it’s just kind of crazy that the urban life that we want is actually inhibited or stymied by the very rules that are supposed to enable them to happen,” Maurice Cox, director of the city’s Planning and Development Department, told the paper. “We turn this upside down and say: ‘Let’s visualize the reality of this urban life that we want. Let’s look at where our current regulations don’t allow it and let’s just change the rules.’ This process will get us that.” Cox cited the city's West Village neighborhood as a real-world ideal: Agnes Street, its commercial spine, is an inviting allée graced by restaurants, shops, and bike parking. Other pink zoning targets are two block chunks of West and East Warren avenues, and a vacant lot at the intersection of Gratiot Avenue and the Dequindre Cut. Applications for teams are open now through September 16. Prospective applicants may apply here.
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Inside the diverse practice of Chicago- and Philadelphia-based PORT Urbanism

It is sometimes difficult for people who encounter PORT Urbanism’s work to know whether the projects are hypothetical or practical urban proposals. Despite this confusion, PORT would tell you that all of its work is practical, if not sometimes fantastic.

With small offices in Chicago and Philadelphia, PORT Urbanism fits into a niche of designers that are not typical urban planners and not strictly architects. As its name would suggest, it works at the urban scale, engaging with city governments and large-scale developers to envision near and far futures for public spaces.

AN visited the firm’s Chicago office, which seats four in a small space on the ninth floor of the Burnham and Root–designed Monadnock Building. The office walls are plastered, floor to ceiling, in bright renderings, small models, site photos, and marker-laden site maps. Partner Andrew Moddrell and two employees make up the Chicago office, while the Philadelphia office is comprised of partner Christopher Marcinkoski and one other employee. Moddrell and Marcinkoski started PORT in 2012. With the support of academic positions at the University of Illinois Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania, they were able to practice on their own terms.

Despite PORT’s small size, it is no stranger to large and complex projects. After being chosen from a request for proposal for a Denver park design with Denver-based Independent Architecture, a NIMBY battle ensued. The project was eventually moved and redesigned for a new park in a neighborhood with a community that appreciated the project. PORT is now moving forward through design development with an improved plan.

Presented at the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the Big Shift envisioned adding a new coastline and additional land east of Millennium and Grant Parks in downtown Chicago. While dismissed by many as too far-fetched, the project struck a chord with critics and the public. “If we had proposed putting an island in Lake Michigan, then nobody would have cared,” Moddrell said. “But when we ground it in the precision of an infrastructural hierarchy and proposed repositioning of Lake Shore Drive, extending boulevards, and turning Grant Park into a Central Park, and pitch it with a straight face, it is not just architects screwing around for other architects.” Moddrell stands by the idea, however grandiose, as a serious, though speculative proposal.

Carbon T.A.P. (Tunnel Algae Park) New York, New York

Winner of the WPA 2.0 competition, the Carbon T.A.P. envisions a carbon-harvesting algae park attached to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. The speculative project proposes to use carbon dioxide released by cars passing through the tunnel to feed algae that can be used to produce oxygen, biofuels, bioplastics, nutraceuticals, and agricultural feeds. Linked to the algae production is a large-scale public space in the form of a swinging bridge. Part of the rationale behind the project is that with the introduction of an innovative industrial infrastructural typology—carbon-reducing algae farms—a new civic infrastructural typology can be realized.

The Big Shift Chicago, Illinois

The Big Shift was originally conceived as an entry to the Art Institute of Chicago’s show Chicagoisms. It was developed further for the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial. The Big Shift proposes to move Chicago’s Lakeshore Drive east and add hundreds of new acres of land in order to expand the city’s downtown and produce hundreds of new acres of park along the lake. Making no small reference to Chicago’s history of reconfiguring its lakeshore, which was mostly fabricated after the 1871 fire, the Big Shift aims to produce trillions of dollars of new real estate. Despite its large upfront infrastructural costs, the plan highlights the advantages of a lakeside park that is three times the size of the current park and of 30 new city blocks of tax-paying, job-producing real estate.

City Loop Denver, Colorado

City Loop is a $5 million public park planned for the City of Denver. Comprised of a continuous ribbon of program and activity space, the Loop is designed to encourage healthy lifestyles and active play. A series of tubes, colorful paths, and diverse activity pods stretch over the half-mile loop, providing for every age group and taste. Along with physical health, the park aims to promote social and cultural well-being as a civic and community space. The full team working on the project is PORT, Denver-based Indie Architecture, Indianapolis-based Latitude 39, Boulder, Colorado–based engineers Studio NYL, Denver-based metal fabricators JunoWorks, athletics consultant Loren Landow, and Tulsa, Oklahoma–based contractors Site Masters Inc.

Goose Island 2025 Chicago, Illinois

In an ongoing collaboration with Chicago developers R2, PORT’s Goose Island 2025 addresses the large industrial Goose Island on the near North Side of Chicago. A planned manufacturing district, Goose Island is now in the middle of a quickly developing part of the city. The island itself, though, has seen little development due to its designation as a planned manufacturing district and the city’s lack of an overall vision. R2 and PORT’s plan looks at the possibilities of the island as it continues as a place of industry, as well as anticipates a future in which some of its land may become available for other programs.

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A new tool lets users see a city’s health through the density of its retail storefronts

Here's a tool Jane Jacobs would approve of: The Storefront Index, created by Joe Cortright and Dillon Mahmoudi of Portland, Oregon–based think tank City Observatory, measures the quantity and density of retail storefronts in cities throughout the Unites States as a proxy for urban desirability. The Storefront Index is predicated on the assumption that the amenities of the "consumer city"—places to get manicures, burritos, a nose piercing, a picture framed—encourage walkability, connect public spaces, and make cities desirable places to be. Mahmoudi and Cortright posit that "the presence, number, and size of storefront businesses in a neighborhood is a new, key indicator of urban economic health and neighborhood vitality." City Observatory hopes planners can use the Storefront index to assess the efficacy of small business growth and retention strategies, as well as plan for walkable retail development in downtown corridors.  The index maps every store that provides the goods and services that facilitate everyday life, but excludes banks and hospitals, as well as stores that sell goods to other manufacturers. Nationwide, there are approximately 2.6 million storefront businesses. In the 51 largest metro areas, there are about 537,000 storefront businesses. What makes a storefront cluster? By Cortright and Mahmoudi's count, storefronts had to be within 100 meters of another storefront. They drew a three-mile radius around each city's Central Business District (CBD), but mapped storefronts outside of that, too. The concentration of storefronts varies drastically from city to city, and confirms what you may instinctively sense from strolling through St. Louis, say, or Philadelphia. The former has a low density of storefronts in the urban core and large areas with no storefront clusters. St. Louis has 426 storefronts in its CBD, coming in front of only Detroit (91) in 51 metro areas surveyed: Philly, on the other hand, has high density clusters scattered throughout the city. The metro area has the fourth-highest number of storefronts in the CBD: Planners, urbanophiles: Rejoice in this new spatial analytic tool, and see how your hometown's storefront index stacks up against neighboring cities.  
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Our studio visit with Somerville, Massachusetts–based Landing Studio

The offices of Landing Studio are cluttered with “industrial fossils,” as principal Marie Law Adams calls them: vials of rock salt, cross-sections of old oak piers, a chunk of slag discovered during the demolition of a jet fuel tank. In between the piles of design books, they form a trail of breadcrumbs back to the firm’s founding in 2005, when Adams was hired along with her partner and co-principal Dan Adams to make an attractive public space out of a defunct shipping terminal in Chelsea, Massachusetts. That project went on to win awards for the way it reconciled industrial and recreational uses on the site without diminishing either. It’s typical of Landing Studio’s work, which brings high design to industrial clients that typically don’t get much more sophisticated in their design process than making sure they clear the zoning board.

That work continues today, in the fittingly unrefined Boynton Yards District of Somerville, Massachusetts. Several employees share a unit with the firm Reverse Architecture in a converted four-story mill building whose other tenants include two chocolatiers and a fencing club. The building is like Landing Studio’s work itself: Not exactly postindustrial, but wrapped in the eclecticism and grittiness that the word implies; not just a pretty relic of the past, but something still alive and evolving.

“People, when they hear about our work, immediately start talking about postindustrial sites,” said Dan. “That for us was very jarring, that in the design community people would always say, ‘Oh industry, that’s an interesting niche.’ Industry probably shouldn’t be thought of as a niche. It’s much larger.”

When it comes to urban planning, the partners said, that reductive “postindustrial” mindset often means disparate industrial uses get lumped together. Oil tank farms and salt piles are very different uses that present different opportunities for a designer. But without a firm like Landing Studio, they’re usually glossed over with the same “industrial site” protocol.

“There’s no character like the architect who would negotiate between traffic engineering, civil engineering, and everything that would add up to the operations on the site,” said Marie. “It’s kind of a reflection on the urban landscape. The traditional role of the architect to mediate between a lot of disciplines is something that I think is a new way of working with industrial clients.”

Rock Chapel Marine and Port Chelsea, Massachusetts Landing Studio’s Chelsea harbor project is still the only publicly accessible portion of the town’s industrial waterfront. Bordering a dense residential neighborhood, the six-acre site turns a jet fuel and asphalt-batching terminal into a shared landscape for public recreation and road salt storage. “Do you just try to eliminate industry? Well, how does that serve the sustainability of the region? You’re just displacing the burden somewhere else,” said Dan. “In the case of the Boston Harbor, now it’s very nice to live near the water, but how do you preserve the viability of the region?”Unlike Duisburg-Nord in Germany or the High Line in New York, he says, this is still an active industrial area. “People now like the industrial aesthetic, so it makes it easier for them to stomach actual active industry,” said Adams. “Even though that’s just a kind of dead trophy.”

Marginal Boston A temporary installation developed for the 2015 Boston Design Biennial, Marginal dug deep into the history of its site: the Boston Greenway. With the help of Fitzgerald Shipyard, Landing Studio salvaged eight oak pilings from the Boston Harbor, which were originally used to make new industrial land for the growing port. “Throughout the harbor there’s still this kind of message of the interface between land and water,” said Marie. “That’s how Boston was built, basically by wharfing out piers.” Landing Studio sliced the old piers into 2,000 discs and stacked them into a grid of 18 LED-illuminated piers on dry land in downtown Boston.“We like this continuum: when is something global or local? When is it industrial or natural?” said Dan. “These artifacts, they’re at the margins of our definitions of things.”

Marginal Boston A temporary installation developed for the 2015 Boston Design Biennial, Marginal dug deep into the history of its site: the Boston Greenway. With the help of Fitzgerald Shipyard, Landing Studio salvaged eight oak pilings from the Boston Harbor, which were originally used to make new industrial land for the growing port. “Throughout the harbor there’s still this kind of message of the interface between land and water,” said Marie. “That’s how Boston was built, basically by wharfing out piers.” Landing Studio sliced the old piers into 2,000 discs and stacked them into a grid of 18 LED-illuminated piers on dry land in downtown Boston.“We like this continuum: when is something global or local? When is it industrial or natural?” said Dan. “These artifacts, they’re at the margins of our definitions of things.”

Infra-Space 1 Boston Designed collaboratively with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and engineering firm VHB, Infra-Space is the first in a series of unlikely urban revivals. Using lighting installations, bike paths, and stormwater-absorbing landscape design, Landing Studio turned 13 acres of unused land underneath the I-93 viaduct in Boston’s South End into a multi-modal transportation hub. Paid parking sustains the site financially, while recreational use turns a once foreboding underpass into an inviting public space. “The architecture of the freeway becomes really open and monumental,” said Marie.

(Courtesy Landing Studio)

Lumen. (Courtesy Landing Studio) Lumen New York City This summer, Landing Studio will contribute to their fourth “LUMEN,” a one-night film and performance art festival in New York. On a maritime salt dock on the northern shore of Staten Island, Landing Studio builds salt pile landscapes with theatrical illumination, turning mounds of salt into a convertible gallery for artist installations.
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Las Vegas is proposing a new downtown master plan

The City of Las Vegas could soon adopt a major new master plan for the next 20 plus years. City officials are considering an alternative to replace the current master plan, the Downtown Centennial Plan, that was adopted in 2000. The new 5.5 square mile plan for downtown Las Vegas envisions better connected downtown neighborhoods, transit-oriented development surrounding proposed transit and light rail stations, arts and culture districts, greened boulevards, parks, markets, and more. “The new master plan extends the boundaries of the focus area to include the Las Vegas Medical District on Charleston Boulevard; the historic West Las Vegas neighborhood; the area surrounding Cashman Center; and a quadrant south of the Fremont East entertainment district that city planners say is ripe for development,” writes the Las Vegas Sun. The area around the Cashman District is also getting attention, with ideas to create a mixed-use district by converting Cashman Field into a professional stadium while developing the surrounding property. The proposal pitches restaurants, community, and other public spaces alongside a variety of residential types (apartments, townhomes, duplexes, and condos). The city is working with local and regional consultants including Kubat Consulting, RTKL Associates, The Integral Group, Fehr and Peers, among others. The planning process started over a year and a half ago, in October 2014. Two weeks ago, officials presented the master plan to the Las Vegas Planning Commission for discussion. On May 18, the Las Vegas City Council will vote on the plan. If adopted, Las Vegas city planners are expected to prepare an implementation plan by December 2016, helping to smooth the transition between the current and proposed plans. No word yet on a budget or funding sources.
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Weird, but not so wonderful, says China as it bans “weird” architecture

Question: What has three Arcs de Triomphe, an Eiffel Tower, an Egyptian Sphynx, a Louvre, London Bridge and ten White Houses all over? The answer: China, of course. If the Chinese government has its way, that will soon change.

https://twitter.com/TheMCRsoviet/status/632080629048459264

The duplicate architectural icons may end there as the country's authorities have said no to anymore "oversized, xenocentric, weird" architecture, The New York Times reports. The State Council and the Communist Party’s Central Committee last week stated that there is to essentially be no more copycat architecture, and instead urged new builds to be “suitable, economic, green and pleasing to the eye.” The directive also stipulated that "the chaotic propagation of grandiose, West-worshipping, weird architecture" should be ended, while gated communities have also been vetoed.

Guidelines arose after meetings discussed issues regarding the alarming rate of urbanization that China is undergoing. Just two years ago, President Xi Jinping expressed his views on China's architectural scene, again deeming it "weird" saying there was to be "no more weird architecture." He went on to say that the current climate displayed "a lack of cultural confidence and some city officials’ distorted attitudes about political achievements," though only now does action appear to be being taken.

According to a translation by the Wall Street Journal Blog, Yang Baojun, vice director of the China Academy of Urban Planning and Design (CAUPA), commented on the directive, saying that "the document is a wake-up call for those places where [there has been] a one-sided pursuit of architectural form over function, where cultural orientation has been compromised by an excessive desire to show off."

The New York Times meanwhile reports that experts have warned of "stricter design standards for public buildings." It also added that, an online forum for the Communist Party newspaper, People's Dailypredicted that "in the future it is unlikely that Beijing will have other strangely shaped buildings like the ‘Giant Trousers’ " referring to the China Central Television Headquarters (CCTV) by OMA.

Feng Guochuan, an architect based in Shenzhen spoke about how the President Xi's words had already begun to have an impact on decision making regarding new projects. He was also worried that Xi was meddling with matters that should only concern urban planners, and not the President. "Generally speaking, local governments now tend to approve more conservative designs," he said.

https://twitter.com/DanLewisNews/status/243113209974890496?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

However, Wang Kai, vice president of CAUPA, said these stricture design guidelines would mainly be applied to public schemes, while private projects would still have freedom. "For private housing or commercial projects, there is still space for innovation."

Mr. Wang also added that "we shouldn’t go overboard in pursuit of appearances," going on to say how functionality should be the main concern in public buildings.

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How Salt Lake City might add buildings in the medians of its extra-wide streets

Over the course of four years, the Granary District of Salt Lake City has been trialling "median development" whereby pop-up shows, stands, and other forms of temporary architecture exist literally in the middle of the street. Now, James Alfandre, director of the Kentlands Initiative, proposes something more concrete. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSXH_EEz144 To say Salt Lake City's roads are incredibly wide is an understatement. Initially, this width was derived from former Mormon Governor of the Utah territory who stipulated that a team of oxen and their cart should be able to turn around in the street. In fact, this phenomena is particularly prevalent in many Mormon cities in the United States. However, what was relevant and functional in centuries past is not so today. The width of the roads in a modern city is now an inefficient use of space and in Alfandre's eyes, an opportunity for entrepreneurship. https://vimeo.com/139990231 Building on the success of the trials that saw the streets be transformed into vibrant areas of social interaction, with the space being used for performances and predominantly as a gathering location, Alfandre now proposes a more long term solution. Median development in this respect would shrink the size of the street, dividing space between pedestrians and vehicles as outlined in the diagram above. In the trials, median development gave rise to shipping containers to form "Granary Row" (seen in the video's above). Using this template, the Kentland's Initiative is working with the city to lease the median for 99 years, allowing them to build permanent structures and even housing. Crucially, the median is already under city ownership, meaning that residential space be procured essentially for free. This can then either be sold as a profit or used for low income housing. Alfondre says, "In essence you’d be taking land that was once allocated to cars—or oxen and carts, if you will—and giving it back to the people."
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To reduce their carbon footprint, four European cities introduce drastic traffic regulation plans

Amidst the COP21 UN Climate Change Conference, numerous cities announced questionably large goals to reduce carbon emissions. However, Oslo, Stockholm, Amsterdam, and Madrid, have backed their goals with concrete plans for extreme traffic regulation, ranging from a car-free city center in Oslo to free public transportation in Madrid.

Oslo's City Center to Be Car-Free by 2019

On October 19th, Oslo’s newly elected city council announced plans to turn the city center, within Ring 1, car-free by 2019. To do so, at least 37 miles of bicycle infrastructure will be established and protected, and all interfering or free parking spaces will be removed. 

The plan will also include a new metro tunnel and end the extension of E18 to the west. Lastly, motorists will be charged a rush hour fee. Through these bold implementations, the city hopes to halve emissions by 2020 and remove 95 percent of emissions by 2030, as AN covered here. As a first step, the City of Oslo will stop all its investments in companies that produce fossil fuel energy.

Stockholm Royal Seaport to Be Fossil Fuel Free by 2040

Since 1990, the City of Stockholm has lowered emissions by 44 percent, despite being one of the fastest growing cities in Europe. Recently, Stockholm announced a goal to be fossil fuel free by 2040. Stockholm is one of three finalists in the Sustainable Communities category of the C40 Cities Awards. Stockholm's recognized project, Stockholm Royal Seaport, is one of Europe's largest urban development areas and aims to limit carbon dioxide emission below 3,000 pounds per person by 2020. By 2040, Stockholm Royal Seaport is expected to house 12,000 new residential units and 35,000 workspaces, in addition to becoming fossil fuel free.

Amsterdam to Prioritize Local Traffic at the City Center

Earlier this year, the Amsterdam city council agreed on a new design for Muntplein Square, but recent studies reveal traffic in the city center should be limited even further. A car number plate analysis revealed that 20 percent of motorized traffic in the city center is to access surrounding areas, 15 percent is to access areas further outside the city, and 30 percent are just circulating—taxis looking for customers or people in search of parking. The city council therefore agreed to implement further traffic limitations. The new plan will direct unnecessary traffic in the city center to outside roads and prioritize local traffic, creating more space for pedestrians and cyclists. Taxis will experience the largest extension in travel time—roughly six minutes per vehicle each week. Residents and commercial vehicles will have an additional two to three minutes of travel time each week. Although the city council has agreed upon rerouting city center traffic, they will not vote until 2016. If approved, the plan will be implemented before the end of the year.

Madrid to Monitor Air Quality With Strict Traffic Regulations

This year, Madrid received an F, 58 percent, in the Soot Free Cities rankings, and later announced plans to enact some of the most rigorous anti-pollution laws in the world. On days when air quality falls below a designated threshold, half of cars will be banned from the roads, drastic speed limits will be implemented, and public transportation will be free. According to El Pais, these measures would have a daily cost of $2 million, and if monthly and annual transit pass users are refunded for the day, the daily cost would rise to $4.4 million.   Although these numbers are dreading to a city swamped in financial crisis, studies reveal the city’s pollution is responsible for 2000 premature deaths per year, and therefore the matter must be addressed. If these four plans are approved and successfully implemented, their measures may become a pattern across the globe.
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Here’s how BIG, West 8, and Atelier Ten will reshape Pittsburgh in a new master plan

BIG news for downtown Pittsburgh: New York–based Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), West 8 Landscape Architects, and Atelier Ten were tapped by private developers McCormack Baron Salazar and the Pittsburgh Penguins to create a master plan for 28 acres in Pittsburgh's Lower Hill District. Today, those plans were unveiled. The plan will redevelop public space around the erstwhile Civic Arena, build a new public space across from the Consol Energy Center, and dialogue with the city's vertiginous topography to create bike and pedestrian paths that connect the Hill District with Uptown and Downtown. In all, the New Lower Hill Master Plan calls for 1.2 million square feet of residential construction as well as 1.25 million square feet of retail and commercial space. The project is expected to break ground in 2016 and cost an estimated $500 million. “The master plan for the Lower Hill District is created by supplementing the existing street grid with a new network of parks and paths shaped to optimize the sloping hill side for human accessibility for all generations," Bjarke Ingels, BIG's founding partner, explained in a statement. "The paths are turned and twisted to always find a gentle sloping path leading pedestrians and bicyclists comfortably up and down the hillside. The resulting urban fabric combines a green network of effortless circulation with a quirky character reminiscent of a historical downtown. Topography and accessibility merging to create a unique new part of Pittsburgh." Landscape architects West 8 designed terraced parks and walkways informed by granite outcroppings characteristic of the surrounding Allegheny Mountains. Engineers and environmental design consultants at Atelier Ten developed sustainability guidelines that will encourage district heating and cooling, as well a stormwater retention for on-site irrigation. See the gallery for more master plan images and schematic diagrams.