Posts tagged with "urbanism":

Placeholder Alt Text

Construction wraps up on Moshe Safdie’s Sky Habitat towers in Singapore

Reaching up into the sky in Bishan, Singapore is Moshe Safdie's recently completed development, and aptly named, Sky Habitat. Safdie's design includes walkways that connect the the two structures up to 38 storey's up, offering views across the suburban sprawl of Bishan. Views aren't the only thing offered to residents who take to the bridges at the complex either. As pictured above, a swimming pool spans the majority of the highest bridge (on the 38th floor) complete with palm trees. Below are two more bridges connecting the towers. They provide circulation between the buildings and facilitate airflow through the structures. In fact, ventilation was somewhat of a priority in the context of the Singapore's tropical and climate. As a result, by separating the volumes, Safdie has maximised exposure to each dwelling to combat the humid conditions. That's not to say that they too have been left bereft of vegetation, something which has been a key feature of Safdie's design. The inclusion of such greenery has lead to the bridges being termed as "sky gardens," offering a natural counter to the surrounding urban environment. Bishan, by comparison, is one of Singapore's fastest developing cities. The two volumes of the towers show off a staggered facade that maximizes each dwelling's views and sunlight exposure. Sky Habitat, by name, builds on Safdie's most recognized work, Habitat 67 in Montreal, Canada. Equally hierarchical and arguably more complex, Habitat 67 had its roots in his Master's thesis at McGill University. http://www.skyhabitat.com.sg/assets/video/commercial.mp4
Placeholder Alt Text

In gentrifying Brooklyn, illicit luxury housing is sprouting from community gardens

Larceny and deed fraud are on the rise, and those with a mind for leaving confusing trails of paperwork are profiting from illegitimate purchases of land. A classic case of this can be found on Maple Street in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn. https://vimeo.com/6258261 According to a report by The Nation, the area became a tranquil community space in the summer of 2013. Using a lot no bigger than one-eighth of an acre, local residents constructed vegetable patches and seating areas that successfully brought people together to make use of a shared space. The residents' retreat however, was short-lived. The owners,  Joseph (Joe) and Kamran (Mike) Makhani, apparently have a history of using illegitimate signatures to gain property and have even been to prison in the past for selling homes they did not own. Their company name, H.P.D., LLC, is quite similar to the government agency, NYC Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). When questioned in the video above, Joe Makhani said, "if the client is stupid, that's not my problem." Cut to 2014 and the Makhanis show up and start destroying the lot that the residents had carefully made. Ignoring calls to stop, they only do so when the police turn up demanding a court order to prove ownership. The Makhanis promptly left after no document was produced. So what of the significance of this debacle? The sad truth is that these ordeals are cropping up more and more with cases being becoming increasingly complex with name irregularities making documented selling and purchasing of land harder to find. "No one is talking about it, but we're seeing this every day," said Sonia Alleyne told The Nation on behalf of the Department of Finance. "I don't think anyone realizes how big this story is." The ordeal features all the tell-tale signs of larceny and deed fraud. The initial purchase of land from the nephews of the deceased owners for $5,000 (an incredible and questionably low price); Social Security numbers failing to match up; spelling "mistakes" (McKany rather than Makhani); illegible notary names and the fact that the license number isn't even present; traits that, in the City of New York Sheriff Joseph Fucito's eyes, scream fraud. Anyone attempting to investigate ownership/sale history of the land, it seems, is lead down rabbit hole after rabbit hole. Sheriff Fucito stated that 15 deed-fraud arrests were made in in the last year, and that (as of August 2015) his office was on the trail of over 1,000 cases. Gardens in Bushwick and Crown Heights have likewise found themselves embroiled in similar conflicts. Fucido believes that many fraudulent cases go undetected and that the real number of cases is much higher. Why the sudden rise in deed fraud? Gentrification may be partly to blame. Brooklyn residential prices are increasing at an alarming rate, and land with debatable ownership is the perfect target for fraudsters. Experts such as Christie Peale, executive director of the Center for New York City Neighborhoods, say that paperwork is deemed legitimate all too easily. "The problem is this open process that allows people to just walk in and file false instruments," said Peale.
Placeholder Alt Text

Enrique Peñalosa plans to give Bogotá the best transit system in the developing world

An economist who once advised Colombian President Virgilio Barco, Enrique Peñalosa is now a revered urban planner in the city of Bogotá. Having once served as Bogotá mayor from 1997 to 2001, Peñalosa is now back for his second stint and pledges to provide his city with the best public transportation system in the developing world. In his first term as mayor, Peñalosa was responsible for widespread changes in infrastructure and public space in Bogotá. These included a 40 percent reduction in vehicle usage within the city; replacing parking spaces with green sidewalks and street furniture; developing the TransMilenio bus rapid transit systems; building a major public library alongside two others in low-income areas; and creating expansive green spaces. Peñalosa also pioneered regulation on social housing that included a minimum square footage on new builds. Dario Hidalgo of CityFix sings the new mayors praises, citing how the bus rapid transit system (BRT) is "one of the world’s most heavily used", with over 2 million passengers a day using the service. Like any good economist, Peñalosa is a strong supporter of efficiency and growth. Now, with his self-laid foundations,Bogotá can begin to move forward again. Not dwelling on the past, he has plans to upgrade the BRT system, merging it with the rail network as well implementing more bus lanes. On top of this, Peñalosa plans on doubling bicycle usage in Bogotá. Naturally, when a such changes are proposed, the issue of financing these changes surfaces. An estimated $13-20 billion is required with the state being left to cough up $7.1 billion after accounting for all government revenue streams. The solution? Peñalosa is seeking to implement fees for personal automobile travel into the city, similar to the congestion charge in London (which has generated $1.42 billion since 2003). Despite these possible methods of financing, it is very possible that the new Mayor will turn to the private sector to secure further funding in order to secure the implementation of the new services.
Placeholder Alt Text

New Delhi and Milan scale back on automobile usage to combat runaway air pollution

New Delhi has taken emergency measures to deal with the particularly thick and noxious air that has covered India’s capital city this winter. For the first two weeks of the New Year, the city has enacted an odd-even rule, which stipulates that even-numbered license plates be allowed on the roads only on even-numbered dates, and odd-numbered license plates only on odd-numbered dates. Because the trial intervention applies to private automobile vehicles exclusively, it has been criticized for its many loopholes. High level government officials, including India’s prime minister, chief justice, and state governors are exempt from the ban, as well as female drivers not accompanied by a male over 12 years old, and motorcycles, which are said to account for a third of emissions from vehicles. Buses, taxis, and rickshaws are also exempt. Along with the two-week plan, the government announced that it would provide 3,000 extra buses to handle the expected increase in demand. Drivers caught violating the new policy could be fined up to 2,000 rupees, or $30. The odd-even initiative follows a temporary ban on the registration of diesel cars with a capacity of 2,000 cubic centimeters ordered by the Supreme Court of India in December. The Court also set a time frame for all taxis to switch to compressed natural gas, which is generally less harmful to the environment. According to the World Health Organization, New Delhi has the most polluted air of the nearly 1,600 cities around the world that it surveyed. The new measures are testament to the pressing needs to combat pollution, and follow the historic climate talks in Paris in December that committed nearly every country to lowering planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, in Milan, air pollution has reached a record high, and cars and motorcycles were banned from city streets for 6 hours a day for three days during the first week of January. Rome also restricted traffic, enacting its own version of the odd-even rule this past week. The initiatives in Milan and Rome come at a time when European cities are beginning to aggressively scale back on the use of automobiles. Milan has proclaimed an incremental approach to expel cars from the city center. In Paris, motorists are to be completely barred from the River Seine by the summer of 2016, and all non-electric or hybrid vehicles are to be purged from Paris streets by 2020. Similar efforts have been endorsed in Madrid, Brussels, and Dublin.
Placeholder Alt Text

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."
Placeholder Alt Text

Norman Foster: The quality of infrastructure determines the quality of our lives

This month, the London School of Economics (LSE) hosted its 10th annual UrbanCities debates, a forum where world leaders in the field of urbanism come together to discuss their views on the subject and its relative disciplines (mainly architecture). This year AN caught up with Design Museum curator Deyan Sujic, Norman Foster, and Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena, among others for the debate. "Eighty percent of a country's total GDP is generated from urban areas," Joan Clos, executive director of Un-Habitat, said at the conference. With this, he argued that "transaction costs can be reduced by the availability of labor," supposing the labor supply is within the vicinity of the production area. For this to happen, though, urban planners must focus on the "human scale," focusing their attention on streets, not roads. "Thirty to 35 percent of urban environments are made up of streets, " Clos added. Streets, density, and pedestrianisation would be dominant themes for the debates. Norman Foster continued that theme, clearly setting a hierarchy in the built environment. "Beyond architecture, infrastructure is more important," he said. In his talk, Foster seemed to be both acknowledging his role as an architectural figurehead, but also at how his work may be seemingly powerless to solve the urban problems faced today. "The quality of infrastructure determines the quality of our lives," he added, and "infrastructure is inseparable from economic prosperity." "I have no power as an architect, none whatsoever," lamented Foster in a recent interview with the Guardian. He noted that government policy has a much bigger impact on the shape of the built environment than being an architect does. Citing the population density of the South London suburb of Southwark, Foster said how in 80 years, the density has in fact decreased from 20,550 people/km2 in 1901 to 2,232 people/km2 in 1981. Foster, building on Clos's remarks, emphasized the importance of density, with its connection to energy consumption. Using Atlanta as a tragic example of failure in this respect, he compared the sprawling U.S. city to its opposite extreme, Hong Kong, in how much the two cities differ in almost every aspect. As demonstrated in Atlanta, high density and energy consumption are negatively correlated. Needless energy is wasted in simply moving around, such as getting to work, bringing the previous conversation about proximity—or lack thereof—of the labor supply full circle. Foster clarified this need for density with a call for better public space to offset potential overcrowding. He cited the classic example from New York, saying that "Central Park [is] probably the only park built for the social good." Foster contrasted Olmsted's green space to London's parks that are just old royal hunting grounds, not actual spaces constructed on behalf of the public. Aravena was also complimentary of New York, claiming that "Manhattan is the most productive piece of of urbanism in the world." LSE Professor Ricky Burdett pointed to the flexibility of New York's built environment. "Places in NYC designed for one thing are now used for another," he said, illustrating how diverse and adaptive the city's architecture and infrastructure had become. Manhattan, bound by its physical geography, had to change over time to stay relevant. Aravena added how restraints in design can be beneficial to the process, particularly with urbanism, citing how Philadelphia was literally planned overnight by William Penn. "Time, for urbanisation, is a good restraint," Aravena said, adding that the influx of migrants into European cities could be "windows of opportunity," opening up scenarios similar to when Penn had to plan a city in very little time. Going back to Atlanta, Foster again tackled the infrastructure problem, touting High Speed Rail as an urban palliative that can take on functional and aesthetic roles as well as be used as a tourist destination. Concluding the talk, Joan Clos lamented how a "loss of identity, down to unrestricted development," where developers have too much space and so many material construction methods that have come at the cost of indigenous ones. In doing so, he posed the question: Does globalization mean the demise of the vernacular? The answer continues to play out across the globe.
Placeholder Alt Text

OMA selected to design The Factory, a major arts complex in Manchester, England

After fending off  Rafael Viñoly, Zaha Hadid, Nicholas Grimshaw, Haworth Tompkins Limited and compatriots Mecanoo, OMA's design for "The Factory" will become Manchester's new art house. Lead by Rem Koolhaas, The Factory will be in the British city's center and is touted to cost $166 million with a further $13.5 million-a-year to run. Funding will not be an issue for Koolhaas' building as U.K. Chancellor George Osborne has pledged $117.5 million to the project with the view that The Factory will become the "Northern Powerhouse" showpiece. The project's name supposedly comes from the home-grown Factory Records, an indie record label launched in 1978 that produced notable bands such as Joy Division and Happy Mondays. Koolhaas has designed what essentially is an art-box that will host a wide range of artistic events in Manchester, with an aim for the facility to become the cultural focal point of the region. The venue is dedicated to theatre, music, dance, technology, film, TV, and scientific advancements and will have a combined capacity of 7,200—2,200 seated and 5,000 standing. This will be OMA's first major public development on British soil, aside from a few minor forays into London, Glasgow, and the south coast. “The importance of the Factory cannot be overstated," Manchester council leader, Sir Richard Leese, told the Guardian. "It will be of international significance, the cultural anchor for the next phase of economic and cultural regeneration in Manchester, Greater Manchester and beyond. It will help power Manchester and the wider region towards becoming a genuine cultural and economic counterbalance to London, as well as being a place where inspirational art is created.” Koolhaas' project in Manchester is set to break ground next year with the aim to finish by 2019. According to the Guardian, "Those behind the project have predicted that within a decade it will help create the equivalent of 2,500 jobs adding nearly $211 million to the local economy."
Placeholder Alt Text

Enough Buildings: the Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture

“City-ness” is at the heart of the Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture, which kicked off last Friday in Shenzhen, China. Titled Re-Living the City and curated by Aaron Betsky, Alfredo Brillembourg, Hubert Klumpner, and Doreen Heng Liu the event brought together architects, designers, urbanists, and makers on the site of the former Dacheng Flour Factory not far from Shekou Port.

Opening night culminated with giant animated graphics projected on the factory’s abandoned concrete silos, a dramatic light show that reflected the organizers and curators ambitious attempt to rethink how China, and especially still-booming Shenzhen, approaches continued urbanization. The industrial port area is primed for redevelopment and the biennial activities and adaptive reuse of the main five-story concrete building and adjacent structures seem poised to remake this part of the city into a hub a cultural activity based on tactical and informal urbanisms.

The curators divided the biennale into subthemes: Collage City 3D, PRD 2.0, Radical Urbanism, Social City, and Maker Maker, which are distributed across the site. The third floor of the former flour factory is dedicated to thematic and national pavilions. (It’s here that I co-curated with Tim Durfee an exhibition on behalf of Art Center’s Media Design Practices Program entitled Now, There: Scenes from the Post-Geographic City.)

While each thematic category manifests through distinctly different projects—Collage City for example featured Hood Design’s Symbiotic Village installation of hanging fish bowls, while Radical Urbanism presented a mural-like illustration from Interboro Partners’ Arsenal of Exclusion and Inclusion: The Battle for the Beach—there’s a shared emphasis on bottom-up urbanism, hands-on techniques, and citizen agency.

Or, as Betsky is quoted as saying in the catalog: “enough buildings, enough objects, enough images.”

His statement is certainly a provocation given Shenzhen’s skyline—at night the architectural products of the last 20 years are ablaze with LED light shows, screens, and advertisements. The curators ground their explorations in the here and now, emphasizing how the present offers future lessons for a “re-lived” urbanism. But given the recent Chinese edict “No more weird buildings,” one has to wonder if “enough” is enough to carry the next decades. Will the absence of formal agenda lead to a vacuum filled with banal buildings or instead offer space for these types of urbanisms to authentically emerge on their own?

Placeholder Alt Text

Oslo plans to make its city center free from cars in four years

Norway currently boasts three World Rally Championship drivers (second only to France), all of considerable pedigree, yet its capital city of Oslo is planning to remove cars for good. Along with the proposal to ban cars is the plan to build 37 miles worth of bike lanes by 2019 and a new system for handicap bus services and delivery vehicles. In a bid to reduce pollution, Reuters reported, politicians in Oslo said they want to be the first European capital to implement a comprehensive permanent ban on cars. With a population just under 650,000, Oslo has around 350,000 cars with most owners living outside the center but inside the city's boundaries. Emulating Paris' one day-a-year car ban, Oslo is bucking a trend many fellow European cities are following. Currently Brussels is trialling an eight month traffic circulation program involving the pedestrianization of its boulevards meanwhile the old cities of both Split and Dubrovnik in Croatia are completely car free. Shop owners in Oslo, though, fear the plans will hurt business, though it is worthwhile noting that the city is not banning all vehicles, so delivery trucks and the like will be allowed. Lan Marie Nguyen Berg, lead negotiator for the Green Party in Oslo has said "We want to make it better for pedestrians, cyclists. It will be better for shops and everyone." The plan also outlines the need for significant investment in infrastructure, most notably in public transportation that will have to support the growing number of users. Trials will be run after authorities investigate precedents in other european cities where plans have so far been a success. Aside from a marked reduction in pollution, the change will also make the city a much more appealing place for pedestrians and cyclists, something which the authorities are not alone in trying. According to Gemini, researchers from Scandinavian group SINTEF claim that much needs to be done about Norway's noise problem which is responsible for 150 deaths a year.
Placeholder Alt Text

Are floating houses the answer to London’s housing crisis? 100 ideas for affordable housing to be showcased

Affordable housing is a hot-topic in Europe and across the world right now. To look for solutions, New London Architecture (NLA) launched a competition prompting architects, planners and citizens to submit ideas for the current housing crisis in London—and the entries are in. The competition attracted over 200 submissions from over 16 countries and NLA has released a list of 100 of the submitted schemes which include radical concepts from NBBJ, Rogers Stirk Harbour+Partners, and Grimshaw Architects, among others. Seattle-based NBBJ has proposed taking up 9,000 miles of London road to make way for residential housing whereas London practice dRMM advocate the implementation of floating houses. Infact dRMM weren't the only firm to take advantage of London's waterways. Baca Architects and the appropriately named, Floating Homes Ltd. suggested installing 7,500 prefab floating homes along the canal routes of London, something they say could be done in under a year. Floating architecture, it appears, is a powerful force in captivating the imaginations of architects. The competition hasn't just attracted architects however, property consultants GL Hearn propose constructing a megacity by the M25 highway that travels London to improve housing, retail, workspaces, and infrastructure links by 2050.
Building firm WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff says 630,000 new homes would be created by building housing on top of government institutions such as hospitals, schools, and libraries.
The list of 100 will be whittled down by the NLA to a select group of 10 which will be considered in further depth before an eventual winner is chosen. The 100 projects will go on display in London on Saturday 17th October.
Placeholder Alt Text

Call for proposals: Detroit is an urban laboratory for the 2016 U.S. Venice Biennale Pavilion

The curators of the 2016 US Pavilion at the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale have announced an open call for proposals for the exhibition The Architectural Imagination. They are looking for speculative projects that use Detroit as a testing ground for new modes of urbanism that could have application around the world. Curators Cynthia Davidson and Monica Ponce de Leon will commission twelve visionary U.S. architectural practices to produce new work that addresses 21st century urbanism. They are looking for “design excellence, innovative speculative thinking, and architectural expertise in built and/or unbuilt work.” For more information on how to submit, click here.
Placeholder Alt Text

Cincinnati decided this waterfront skyscraper just wasn’t complete without an old-timey hat and handlebar mustache

When Mies van der Rohe set out to remake the world in the image of a crystal-clear tower with steel columns behind walls of glass, he probably wasn’t thinking about dressing up those buildings with old-timey hats and handlebar mustaches. However, a century later that's exactly what's happening in Cincinnati. The Queen City's 468-foot-tall Scripps Center, a 1990 office tower resembles any Midwestern skyscraper with a curved wall of glass keeping watch over the Ohio River. But thanks to red, white, and black colored panels applied to the top of the tower, the building now looks a little like the Cincinnati Reds’ mascot, Mr. Redlegs. Mies would probably loathe this decorative approach to giving buildings character, but it's not 1921 anymore, Ludwig. The Reds gave the building a pillbox hat and mustache in celebration of the 2015 All-Star Game, which will be played in July at the city's Great American Ballpark. The panels are made of the same material that is sometimes used to put advertisements on buses. In anticipation of the game and its parallel festivities such as the Home Run Derby, the city is pulling out all the stops, including shutting down part of a freeway and projecting images on the nearby Carew Tower, one of the city’s most iconic structures. And all throughout the city, 850-pound sculptures of mustaches are being decorated in baseball-themed art. https://twitter.com/robinburke/status/608787417626234882 https://twitter.com/JSchachleiter/status/610235652332982272 https://twitter.com/FOX19Joe/status/606891545112027139